July 7, 2017

Are you taking these steps to prevent heat stroke?

Heat exhaustion is the precursor to heat stroke and is a direct result of the body heating. When heat exhaustion is not addressed, heatstroke can follow. Heat stroke (or sunstroke) is a life-threatening emergency condition where the brain’s ability to control body temperature fails. It is usually the result of prolonged exposure to high temperatures. If not treated immediately, heat stroke can quickly damage the brain, heart, kidneys, muscles and even lead to death.

Here are a few steps that can be taken to help prevent heat stroke:

Drink Plenty of Cool Fluids

Avoid becoming dehydrated to help your body sweat and maintain a normal body temperature in hot and humid weather—this is the most important step you can take. Even though a cold beer or a margarita may sound appealing, alcoholic drinks can impair the body’s ability to regulate its temperature – drink responsibly. You should also avoid drinks with sugar and caffeine, as these can further dehydrate your body.

Cool clothing

Wear clothing that is loose-fitting, lightweight and light-coloured. Loose-fitting and lightweight clothing will let air circulate and heat escape, allowing your body to cool properly. Light-coloured materials reflect more sunlight.

Stop sunburn

Sunburned skin reduces your body’s ability to cool itself. Take measures to protect yourself from harmful ultraviolet rays with a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more. Apply sunscreen generously, and reapply every two hours—or more often if you’re sweating.

Related Article: Canada’s Most Common and Preventable Cancer

Avoid unventilated spaces

It is not safe to be in a parked car in warm weather. Having the car parked in the shade or the windows cracked open does not make it safe. When parked in the sun, the temperature in your car can rise nearly 7°C in 10 minutes.

It’s recommended to stay on the lowest floor of your building and use an air conditioner or electric fan, if available. Use drapes or shades to cover windows that receive a significant amount of sun. Many public places are air-conditioned such as libraries, shopping malls and movie theatres.

Take precautions with certain medications

Some medications can affect your body’s ability to stay hydrated and dissipate heat. These medications can include:

  • Allergy medicines
  • Cough and cold medicines
  • Some blood pressure and heart medicines
  • Diet pills (amphetamines)
  • Irritable bladder and irritable bowel medicines
  • Laxatives
  • Some mental health medicines
  • Seizure medicines
  • Thyroid pills
  • Water pills

To find out whether the prescriptions you are taking put you at risk for heat stroke, consult your doctor, your pharmacist – or, within Alberta, you can call the Poison & Drug Information Service (PADIS) for free and confidential medication expertise toll-free at 1-800-332-1414 (24 hours a day/7 days a week)

Recognize the signs

These are the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion:

  • Skin that is redder or paler than usual
  • Heavy sweating – however, if heat stroke sets in, the body stops sweating
  • Muscle cramps
  • Feeling tired, dizzy, weak and faint
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Rapid shallow breathing
  • Confusion, agitation, disorientation
  • Out of the usual, irritable or aggressive behaviour

What Can Be Done if Someone has Heat Stroke?

If you suspect that someone has heat stroke, call emergency services (911) immediately and try the following steps until help arrives:

  • Move the person out of the sun to a cooler location (air-conditioned area or shade).
  • Give the person cool water to drink in sips.
  • Have the person loosen any tight clothing or remove any heavy clothing.
  • Fan the person.
  • Put cool water on the person’s skin to help cool off or immerse the body in cool water (swimming pool or bathtub).
  • If the condition is severe, put ice in each armpit and on the back of the person’s neck, where large blood vessels are close to the surface.

Heat stroke is predictable and preventable. Please take the appropriate steps to avoid this life-threatening condition.

For more posts like these, visit the Physical Wellness page.