When temperatures rise during the summer, it’s important to know the risks associated with excessive heat and take precautions to stay safe and healthy. Be aware of the symptoms of heat-related illness, check on those at greater risk during extreme and prolonged periods of heat, and follow the tips below to avoid heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Symptoms of heat-related illness
The symptoms of heat-related illness can range from mild to severe. They include:
- Pale, cool, moist skin
- Heavy sweating
- Muscle cramps
- Swelling, especially hands and feet
- Fatigue and weakness
- Dizziness and/or fainting
- Nausea and/or vomiting
More severe symptoms – including high fever, hallucinations, seizures and unconsciousness – require urgent medical attention. Call 911, move to a cool place, and cool the person with water and fanning.
Check on each other
Anyone can suffer from heat-related illness – but some are at greater risk than others. Please make sure to check the following people regularly:
- Infants and young children
- People aged 65 or older
- People with disabilities, cognitive or otherwise, who may need assistance in monitoring their well-being
- Those who require ongoing medication for conditions such as heart or breathing problems
- People who work or exercise outside
- Check in on those who live alone. Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children need more frequent watching.
Drink more fluids regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Avoid liquids that contain alcohol, caffeine or large amounts of sugar, as these are less helpful in keeping your body hydrated.
If you stay inside
If possible, stay in an air-conditioned place when you are indoors.
- If your home does not have air conditioning, try the shopping mall, recreational centre or public library – even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat.
- Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is above 37 degrees Celsius, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath, or spending time at an air-conditioned place, is a much better way to cool off.
- Wear lightweight, light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing,
- NEVER leave anyone, including pets, in a parked vehicle.
If you go outside
- Avoid strenuous outdoor activities during peak hours of sun (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
- Try to rest often in shaded areas.
- Consider your neighbours: be respectful of pets and humans that need to rest/rehydrate in the shade at new locations temporarily.
- Be sun safe and remember to protect yourself from the heat:
- Apply sunscreen to exposed skin, early and often, at least 15 to 30 minutes prior to going out. Minimum Sun Protection Factor (SPF) should be 30. Use it liberally and make sure to reapply often throughout the day, especially following swimming or heavy perspiration.
- Seek shade and keep skin covered as much as possible when spending time in the sun. The sun can burn and damage skin even on a cloudy day.
- Wear a hat with a wide brim.
- Children are more vulnerable to sun damage and heatstroke, so ensure their skin is protected or that they are in the shade. Infants under six months old should wear a UVA/UVB protective suit if spending time outdoors.
- Wear sunglasses, especially when driving or cycling. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV rays) can cause cataracts and other eye diseases.
For more information on heat-related illness, visit HealthLink BC, the Government of Canada’s Extreme Heat webpage or dial 811.