With temperatures spiking into the mid 30 degrees, Alberta Health Services (AHS) is reminding people to take precautions when working and playing outside in the extreme heat.
“Certainly, we want everybody to be able to enjoy the warm weather, and the hot weather, but we want to make sure that everybody’s doing so safely and responsibly,” said AHS EMS Acting Public Education Officer Nate Pike, “The big things we’re stressing is largely the preventative pieces.”
“Being aware of the fact that, obviously when we’re looking at temperatures in the mid- to high-thirties, we have a much higher risk of heat exposure and heat-related illnesses,” he said.
The most important thing to stay healthy in the heat is to drink water and stay hydrated.
And while for many people this warm weather is the perfect patio or barbecue weather, Pike said that there is a big difference between drinking water and drinking alcoholic beverages.
“There’s a difference between drinking water and drinking alcoholic beverages, because alcoholic beverages, while they may be somewhat refreshing, actually promote dehydration.
“So, if you are drinking alcoholic beverages, making sure that you’re compensating for that dehydration process that happens by adding in lots of water,” he said.
Pike said that AHS also recommends that people were broad brimmed hats to keep the sun off their face and neck.
He said people also need to wear and reapply higher SPF sunscreen.
“The peak times, typically, for the UV index to be particularly high, is between 11am and 3pm.
“So, what we’re encouraging people to do is to make sure, especially during those periods, they’re applying a higher SPF sunscreen, but also making sure that they’re applying it at regular intervals,” said Pike.
He said that a common mistake people make is to assume that when they apply sunscreen before going out that it will last the day, a belief that often leads to sun burns.
“The reality is that most sunscreens are only good for a couple hours, so making sure that you’re checking whatever the instructions are on the type of sunscreen that you have to make sure that you’re applying it, reapplying it at the appropriate intervals is really quite important,” said Pike.
By taking these precautions, people can greatly reduce their risk of falling ill in the heat.
“That’s sort of the broad messages that we’re getting out,” said Pike, “Take regular breaks from the heat, take regular breaks from direct sunlight.”
While the risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke are reduced they’re never gone when the temperatures creep above 30 degrees Celsius.
With heat exhaustion, common symptoms are headaches, feeling tired, nauseous, and sweating a lot.
“That’s all stuff that can be fairly easily corrected by removing the person from the hot environment and then rehydrating them,” said Pike.
Heat Stroke is when things get much more dangerous.
“If somebody moves all the way to heat stroke, that’s where we’ve got real, life-threatening problems,” said Pike.
A person suffering from Heat Stroke could have an altered level of consciousness and the body loses its ability to cool itself and a person will stop sweating.
Pike said that when those symptoms appear, “that’s a 911 call for sure.”
Young kids and the elderly are particularly susceptible to falling ill in the heat.
“Typically younger kids, they’re not so good at recognizing the signs of heat exhaustion,” said Pike, “especially if a kid’s having a really fun time at the splash park, they’re not gonna remember to come back to mom and dad every little while to get that sunscreen reapplied.”
With seniors, the concern is both that the heat can affect them quicker but also that those with reduced mobility can have a harder time moving from a hot environment.
“It certainly can affect the people on the younger end of the spectrum and people on the older end of the spectrum much, much quicker,”
Another big danger, especially for kids, is being left in a car.
The heat in a car can quickly reach lethal temperatures.
“If you’ve ever been inside of a hot car in the summer, without the motor running, without the air conditioning running, the glass effectively acts as a magnifying glass,” said Pike.
“Because there’s no airflow, and because it’s just basically a greenhouse, the heat in the car can go up very, very quickly, very, very fast,” he said.
For kids left in a car seat, Pike said they can’t do anything to get themselves out of the heat.
“And because, again, if we’re talking about children, we’re talking about the demographic that’s much more at risk for heat exhaustion and for potentially for heat stroke,” said Pike.
With all of the vehicle thefts occurring in Chestermere, Calgary and the region, Pike also discourages people from leaving kids in a car with the air conditioning running.
“I know that I’ve certainly seen messaging from…Calgary Police Service, talking about the importance of never leaving a car running, because it’s basically an open invitation for theft,” said Pike.
While kids will stay cool with the air conditioning running, Pike said the danger is that they and the car will be gone when a person comes back out.
“So even if it’s just for a minute or two, make sure that you get your kid out of the car seat, get your kid out of the car and bring them into the store with you,” he said.
“As a parent myself, I know that trying to get a little bit of shopping done with younger kids can certainly be more work, but it’s just not worth the risk,” said Pike.