With temperatures rising and forecast to rise even more across Vancouver Island, Island Health has issued a tip sheet in an attempt to keep people safe.
“It’s important to know the risks associated with excessive heat and take precautions to stay safe and healthy,” the release says, reminding people to be aware of the symptoms of heat-related illness, to check in on those at greater risk during extreme and prolonged heat and follow these tips 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, rash, swelling – especially hands and feet – fatigue and weakness, dizziness and/or fainting, headache, nausea and/or vomiting, fever, particularly a core body temperature of 40 C or more.
Other symptoms could include confusion and decreased mental alertness, hallucinations, red, hot, dry skin (in the late stages of heat stroke), seizures, and even unconsciousness or coma.
Check on each other
Although anyone at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. Check regularly on infants and young children, people aged 65 or older, people who have a mental illness and those who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure.
Check in on those who live alone, as well, Island Health says. 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 much more frequent watching.
Keep yourself hydrated
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 – these can cause you to lose more body fluid.
Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned place.
If your home does not have air conditioning, try to go to the shopping mall 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 27 C, 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 closed, parked vehicle.
If you do go outside
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.
Avoid strenuous outdoor activities during peak hours of sun (10am – 4pm).
Try to rest often in shaded areas.
For more information on heat-related illness, visit Health Link BC or dial 811.