While there’s plenty of information available on how to protect yourself from the heat, it’s never a bad idea to remind people about the risks that often come along with rising temperatures and sunny weather. As Dr. Ali Ghahary recently mentioned on Twitter, temperatures in Vancouver are expected to hit the 30-degree mark in Metro Vancouver this week – and even higher across other areas of British Columbia. As a result, Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement warning that the first major heat wave of the season could stick around until mid-week, maybe even longer.
Prolonged exposure to heat and sunshine can have a wide range of negative effects on your health. For example, during an intense heat wave, it’s much more difficult for the body to stay cool and maintain a temperature that’s within what’s considered “normal” limits. This can result in heat exhaustion, which may include symptoms such as dizziness and/or fainting, as well as headaches. The best way to prevent and treat heat exhaustion is to stay in a cool environment and keep yourself hydrated with water and electrolytes. While drinks like Gatorade are packed with electrolytes such as potassium, magnesium and calcium (which are all great for the body), they’re also high in sugar, which can have its own negative effects on your health. For tips on how you can refuel the body in a healthy way, ask your physician or pharmacist for some recommendations. Heat exhaustion can also be a precursor to heat stroke. While both heat exhaustion and heat stroke share similar conditions, there are some ways the two differ. Heat stroke generally occurs once your body has reached a temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or greater. With heat stroke one can also develop heavy sweating, extreme fatigue, muscle cramps, nausea, cool/moist skin, and rapid pulse – to more severe symptoms such as confusion, agitation, and even seizures. Heat stroke is considered a medical emergency and could be fatal without proper treatment. Heat cramps, which can also occur as a result of overexposure to high temperatures and UV rays, is considered a more mild heat-related illness. It consists of painful muscle cramps/spasms, and usually happens after high-impact physical activity on hot weather.
There are certain risk factors that make individuals more susceptible to developing a heat-related illness than others – particularly those under the age of 4 or over the age of 65. However, regardless of age, there are certain precautions that Dr. Ali Ghahary says people should take to reduce their risk of developing a heat-related illness such as the ones mentioned above. First and foremost, make sure you drink plenty of fluids. Water, especially. You should avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol as these can actually lead to dehydration. For more information on the importance of drinking water and the many different ways in which it can benefit your health, click here. If you’re planning on being outdoors for an extended amount of time, always make sure you’re wearing sunscreen (SPF 30 at least!), a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. You should also take frequent breaks from the sun by moving indoors to an air-conditioned building. If that’s not possible, find an area that’s shady. Vigorous physical activity should also be avoided and scheduled for cooler times of the day. On days that are extremely hot and humid, try to stay indoors as much as possible.