Heat events or “heat waves” occur when weather conditions combine to create higher than normal temperature and/or humidity levels over a period of several days.
Heat affects the body’s ability to regulate its temperature and it can become overworked if exposed to heat for too long. This can lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion, other serious illnesses or even death. While the health risks related to heat are higher for certain groups, such as older adults, young children, people taking certain medications and people with chronic conditions, everyone is potentially at risk. Fortunately, most heat-related illnesses can be prevented or treated if you are aware of the risks and symptoms. The following information can help you to plan ahead, and take action to protect yourself and your family:
Humidex is a measure of how hot we feel. The Humidex value combines temperature and humidity into one number to reflect the perceived temperature.
Your body is always trying to keep a consistent temperature (about 37ºC or 98.6 ºF) but becomes overworked if you are exposed to heat for too long. This can lead to dehydration, exhaustion, heat stroke (sun stroke), other serious illnesses or even death. Fortunately, most heat-related illnesses can be prevented or treated if you are aware of the risks and symptoms and take action to protect yourself and others.
When it’s hot out, everyone is at risk for heat related illnesses. However, the health risks are greatest for:
Anyone can put themselves at risk by over-exercising in hot weather because the body has to work even harder to stay cool.
Some medications can also increase your risk, so it’s important to ask your doctor or pharmacist whether the medication you’re taking affects your ability to cope with heat.
All heat illnesses can be prevented by following these simple steps:
Some people are more sensitive to the effects of heat than others. However for most people, heat-related illnesses happen when temperatures are higher for a number of days, particularly if the night time temperatures do not drop or if humidity is high.
Exposure to heat can lead to a variety of symptoms ranging from mild to more severe and may include:
Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses too much water and salt. Symptoms can include:
If you or someone you know experiences any of these symptoms, move to a cool or shaded place immediately, drink sips of water, lie down and sponge yourself with cool water, if possible.
Heat stroke (sun stroke) is the most serious type of heat illness and requires urgent medical attention. If someone you know experiences signs of heat stroke, dial 911 immediately.
During heat stroke a person will have a core body temperature that is above 40º C (105 º F).
Symptoms of heat stroke may include:
While waiting for help to arrive, immediately move the person to a cool place, sponge with cold water to large areas of the skin, and fan the person as much as possible.
The longer a person’s body temperature is above 40º C (105 º F), the greater the likelihood of permanent effects or death.
Extreme heat events or “heat waves” occur when weather conditions combine to create higher than normal temperature and humidity levels over a period of several days. This increases the potential for heat-related illnesses.
There is no universal definition of what is considered a “heat wave” or “too hot”, because these terms depend on what is considered normal for a specific location. Temperatures that people from a hotter climate consider normal may be considered a heat wave in a cooler area if they are above what is normal for that area.
What is considered “too hot” can also vary from person to person depending on a variety of factors, such as age, chronic conditions and the level of activity on a hot day. It is important to stay aware of weather conditions, listen to your body’s cues and take the proper precautions on a hot or humid day.
For more information on heat and your health:
Call Health Links-Info Santé at 204-788-8200 or toll-free 1-888-315-9257.
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