The B.C. Interior is the perfect place to enjoy outdoor activities in the summer, but the hot summer sun that drives people to the beach to keep their cool can put out more heat than they bargain for.
Heat-related illness is the result of your body gaining heat faster than it can cool itself down, leading to weakness, disorientation, and exhaustion, cautions Interior Health.
In severe cases, it can lead to heat stroke, also known as sunstroke, a life-threatening medical emergency that, in most cases, can be prevented.
Heat-related illness occurs when your body is unable to properly cool itself. This occurs when you are overexposed to heat (indoors or outdoors), or during intense physical activity while it is hot.
Heat-related illnesses can also occur in your workplace if a hot environment is created by equipment or enclosed spaces such as bakeries, kitchens, laundries, boiler rooms and more.
Symptoms of heat-related illness can range from mild to severe. They include: pale, cool, moist skin, heavy sweating, muscle cramps, rash, swelling, especially hands and feet, fatigue and weakness, dizziness and/or fainting, headache, nausea and/or vomiting, a fever, particularly a core body temperature of 40°C (104°F) or more, confusion and decreased mental alertness, hallucinations, red, hot, dry skin (in the late stages of heat stroke), seizures and unconsciousness/coma.
Those at increased risk for heat-related illness include infants and children up to four years of age and people over 65 years of age, who may not compensate for heat stress efficiently and are less likely to sense and respond to high temperatures and those who have certain medical conditions.
In order to prevent or reduce the risk of a heat-related illness, drink plenty of fluids even before you feel thirsty, especially if you are active on a hot day. Plan outdoor activity before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.
Avoid tiring work or exercise in hot, humid environments. If you must work or exercise, drink two to four glasses of non-alcoholic fluids each hour and take rest breaks in the shade.
Stay indoors in air-conditioned buildings or take a cool bath or shower. At temperatures above 30°C (86°F), fans alone may not be able to prevent heat-related illness.
Remember, sunscreen will protect against the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays but not from the heat. Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher on exposed skin and an SPF 30 lip balm.
Wear lightweight, light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing and a wide brimmed hat, or use an umbrella for shade and never leave a child or pet alone in a vehicle. Temperatures can rise to 52°C (125°F) within 20 minutes inside a vehicle when the outside temperature is 34°C (93°F). Leaving the car windows slightly open will not keep the inside of the vehicle at a safe temperature.
As well as keeping an eye on children and other family members, think about neighbours who may be unable to leave their homes, and people with emotional or mental health concerns whose judgment may be impaired.
Interior Health notes that when recognized early most mild heat-related illnesses can be treated at home. If symptoms are not mild, last longer than one hour, change, worsen, or cause you concern, contact a health care provider.
For more information, visit www.healthlinkbc.ca.