10 tips to beat the heat

Soaring summer temperatures can become dangerous quickly when your body is no longer able to properly cool itself. Normally this is accomplished by sweating – but when the heat is extreme, this may no longer be enough. High humidity can cause sweat to not evaporate as quickly, which prevents the body from releasing heat. When this happens a person’s body temperature may rise rapidly and can cause damage to the brain or other vital organs.

Old and young most at risk

While the old, the young and people with mental illness and chronic diseases are most at risk of heat-related illnesses or death, experts say that even the young and healthy can fall ill when overexerting themselves during hot weather.

What you need to know

Heat stroke occurs when the sweating mechanism fails, causing the body to rise rapidly. Body temperature may rise to 106°F (41C) or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), warning signs of heat stroke include:

• An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F or 39C)
• Red, hot, and dry skin – with no sweating
• Rapid, strong pulse
• Throbbing headache
• Dizziness
• Nausea
• Confusion
• Unconsciousness

Any of these symptoms could indicate a life-threatening emergency and experts recommend you call for immediate medical assistance. Other steps you can take:

• Move the victim to a shady area.
• Cool the victim rapidly by placing him or her in a tub of cool water or in a cool shower. Alternately, you could spray cool water from a garden hose or sponge the person in cool water. If humidity is low, try wrapping the person in a cool, wet sheet and fan him or her vigorously.
• Continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101-102°F (38.3 – 38.8 C).
• Do not give the victim fluids to drink.

Sometimes heat stroke can cause a person’s muscles to twitch uncontrollably. If this happens, keep the victim from injuring himself. If there is vomiting, make sure the airway remains open by turning the victim on his or her side.

Milder heat-related illnesses

Heat exhaustion can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids. Symptoms include heavy sweating, weakness, muscle cramping, dizziness and fainting. If heat exhaustion is not treated, it can lead to heat stroke.

Health expects advise the following cooling measures:

• Drink cool, non-alcoholic beverages
• Get lots of rest
• Take a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath
• Find an air-conditioned environment
• Wear lightweight clothing

For more on heat-related illnesses, click here. http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/


10 Tips to beat the heat

1. Air conditioning
Air conditioning may be the best way to prevent heat-related illnesses. If you don’t have an air conditioner, keep rooms well-ventilated with open windows and fans. Since heat rises, you’ll want to stay on the lower level of your home. You may also want to consider going to public places that have air conditioning such as libraries, malls, movie theatres or cooling centres.

2. Draw the shades
Keep out the mid-day sun (from at least 11:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.) to reduce the heat in your home.

3. Dress for the heat
Natural fibres, like cotton, will keep you cooler than synthetics. Light coloured clothing reflects the sun and heat more effectively than dark colours.

4. Sleep solo
You’ll keep cooler without the body heat that comes with a spouse, child or family pet sharing your bed. Note: cotton sheets not only absorb sweat, but allow your skin to breathe easier.

5. Take cool showers and baths
While cool showers and baths may be helpful, avoid taking a cool bath or shower immediately after becoming overheated as it could make you nauseated or dizzy. Running cold water over your wrists, soaking your feet in a bowl of cold water or placing a cool cloth at the base of your neck can also help to lower your body temperature.

6. Avoid strenuous activity
Keep exercise or other activities moderate especially during the sun’s peak hours – 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you must engage in strenuous activity, do it during the coolest part of the day, usually in the morning between 4 am. and 7 a.m. Swimming is a good option for summer exercise: it works all the major muscle groups and at the same time helps to lower body temperature.

7. Seek shade
If possible, stay out of the sun. Be sure to wear sunscreen (at least SPF 15) and a hat to protect your face and head.

8. Keep drinking
Drink fluids regularly, particularly water, even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid beverages containing alcohol, caffeine, or high amounts of sugar.

9. Never leave children, pets, or those who require special care in a parked car during a heat wave
On a typical sunny day in Canada, the temperature inside a parked car can exceed 50°C (122°F) in only 10-20 minutes. This high temperature could kill a child in less than 40 minutes, experts say. Cracking open the window does not keep the temperature at a safe level.

10. Be a good neighbour
Make a special effort to check regularly on your neighbours, friends or family members during periods of intense heat, especially if they are older adults, young children, and people with chronic medical conditions or special needs.