Beating the Heat
As glad as most of us are to see the warm summer months take over after our long Canadian winter, it is important to be aware of the possible perils of too much sun and heat.
It isn’t just the risk of a bad sunburn that we need to be aware of. Each year, approximately 400 deaths in the United States are attributed to hyperthermia, or what is commonly referred to as heat stroke. Heat stroke can result from prolonged over-exposure to heat or sun and if untreated, can have deadly results.
Hyperthermia occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature and so cannot cool down. Ordinarily, the body cools itself by sweating but in cases of extreme heat, sweating is sometimes not enough to control the body’s core temperature. This can happen even if you are not outside jogging or doing other physical activity – your body can over-heat sitting still if it is hot enough or you become dehydrated. Those with heart conditions or taking certain medications are especially at risk when the temperatures rise.
The initial warning signals of hyperthermia often manifest themselves as heat exhaustion – dehydration, too much time in the sun or doing strenuous activity outside on a hot or humid day can lead to heat exhaustion. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include: lightheadedness, headaches, nausea, fatigue and overall weakness or dizziness. If you experience any of these symptoms get out of the sun and into a cool, or preferably, air conditioned place immediately and drink plenty of water – even if you don’t feel thirsty. If you still feel dizzy or nauseous, lie down.
If these symptoms persist, you are unable to drink or have a high temperature, seek medical attention immediately. You could be suffering from heat stroke.
If you don’t have air conditioning at home, on days where the temperature, or the temperature combined with humidity, is expected to be very high, try spending at least part of your day somewhere that has air conditioning. Libraries, community centres or even the shopping mall are some good options for places which you can likely find in your neighbourhood and which will be air conditioned. Listen to the news as “extreme weather alerts” will be issued on days when you should be particularly cautious and avoid excessive time or activity in the sun.
On the extremely hot and humid days we are experiencing this summer, it is especially important to check in on older friends and family members who are more vulnerable at this time of year. Make sure they are somewhere out of the heat and staying hydrated.