The Importance of Staying Cool In Extreme Heat

With the temperatures about to soar above 40 degrees (with the humidity), the upcoming heat wave is of concern to many people, Many of us will be outdoors participating in various Canada Day activities this coming weekend when the temperatures will be at their peak. It’s also moving day for many people, which requires a lot of physical exertion.

Play it safe and smart and give special attention to those who are particularly vulnerable to extreme temperatures (children, elderly and animals).

During times of extreme heat people are susceptible to three heat-related conditions:


Heat Cramps

Heat cramps are the intermittent, involuntary spasm of muscles that occur in an individual who is physically active (for example, working or exercising) in hot or humid weather. They are often associated with dehydration. Heat cramps usually affect the major muscles that are being stressed in the hot environment. Usually these are the thigh and leg muscles, the core muscles and the arm muscles.

Heat cramps can usually be treated when and where they occur. The affected individual should stop all activity and find a cool place to rest. The spasms and muscle cramps can be overcome by gently stretching the muscle(s). One should replace their fluid loss by drinking a combination of water, sports drinks, or other electrolyte replacement solutions.


Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion occurs when a person exercises and works in a hot environment and the body cannot cool itself adequately. Dehydration occurs with water loss from excessive sweating, which causes muscle cramps, weakness, and nausea and vomiting. The nausea and vomiting makes it difficult to drink enough fluid to replenish the body’s water supply, and the lack of body water impairs further sweating, evaporation and cooling.

Relative humidity is an important factor in developing heat exhaustion. If the humidity is too high, sweat on the skin cannot evaporate into the surrounding air and body temperature cooling fails. Heat exhaustion usually can be treated at home as long as the affected individual can replace the lost fluid, keep well hydrated, and find a cool place to rest. Water, electrolyte replacement solutions, or sport drinks are appropriate to consume. If nausea and vomiting prevent rehydration, the individual should seek medical attention, and may need IV fluids for rehydration.


Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that usually occurs by ignoring the signals of heat exhaustion. Heat stroke develops when the body systems are overwhelmed by heat and begin to stop functioning.
Signs of heat stroke include extremely high body temperature, red skin which may be dry or moist; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; rapid, shallow breathing; confusion; vomiting; and seizures.
Heat stroke is life-threatening. Call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number immediately.
Rapidly cool the body by immersing the person up to the neck in cold water, if possible OR douse or spray the person with cold water.
Sponge the person with ice water-doused towels over the entire body, frequently rotating the cold, wet towels.
Cover the person with bags of ice.
If you are not able to measure and monitor the person’s temperature, apply rapid cooling methods for 20 minutes or until the person’s condition improves.


Tips for managing in a heat wave:

  • NEVER, leave children or pets alone in enclosed vehicles even for a few minutes.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid drinks with caffeine or
  • Eat small meals and eat more often.
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes (i.e: from very cold air conditioning into a super hot car)
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun’s rays.
  • Slow down, stay indoors and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day (1 pm – 5 pm)
  • If you must work outdoors, take frequent breaks
  • Check on family, friends and neighbors who do not have air conditioning, who spend much of their time alone or who are more likely to be affected by the heat.
  • Check on your animals frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat.