10 tips for preventing and treating heat stroke

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Image: Heat wave cooling / Shutterstock

With summer here and another heat wave upon us, you might be tempted to leave the house without taking the proper precautions. In extremely hot weather, you are running the risk of heat stroke unless you follow a few easy tips.

“Some of us are at greater risk of heat-related illness than other,in particular young children, elderly people, homeless people and people with mental health conditions,” says Dr. Meena Dawar, a Medical Health Officer with Vancouver Coastal Health.

“Prepare for it. Get a portable air conditioner or fan, make sure you’re hydrated, make sure you know how to keep cool and make sure if you are at risk of heat-related illness that you have someone checking in on you.”

Dawar says heat stroke is the most extreme form of heat-related illness, but there are many points along the spectrum on the way to heat stroke that people need to be aware of.

“Heat-related illness can start with feeling tired, fatigued, getting a headache, maybe getting cramps or a rash, being extremely thirsty. If you see any of these signs, it’s time to get out of the heat and get into a shaded spot or an air conditioned spot and hydrate yourself.”

She says people’s core temperatures are a major concern, and if they rise too much, the consequences could be dire, so knowing the signs of heat stroke could save your life.

“Heat stroke presents with flushed, dry skin, so people aren’t able to moderate their temperatures. Most people sweat a bit to cool off, but with heat stroke, people just can’t sweat. They maybe disoriented because the brain temperature is rising – that’s a very bad sign and can ultimately be fatal.”

She adds if you see any of the signs of heat stroke to call 9-1-1 or go to a hospital immediately.

10 tips to prevent dehydration and heat stroke

  1. Drink cool beverages (preferably water) irrespective of your activity intake. Don’t wait until you are thirsty.
  2. Spend the hottest hours of the day (between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.) out of the sun and heat in a cool location like an air-conditioned facility (such as a shopping centre, library, community centre or restaurant) or in a basement.
  3. Use public splash pools, water parks or pools or take a cool bath or shower.
  4. At high temperatures, fans alone are not effective. Applying cool water mist or wet towels to your body prior to sitting in front of a fan is a quick way to cool off.
  5. Dress for the weather by wearing loose, light-weight clothing. Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
  6. Keep your home cool. Open windows, close shades, use an air conditioner and prepare meals that do not require an oven.
  7. Avoid sunburn, stay in the shade or use sunscreen with SPF 30 or more.
  8. Avoid tiring work or exercise in the heat. If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of non-alcoholic fluids each hour. Limit outdoor activity during the day to early morning and evening.
  9. NEVER leave children or pets alone in a parked car. During warm weather, temperatures can rise very quickly to dangerous levels within an enclosed vehicle. Leaving the car windows slightly open or “cracked” will not keep the inside of the vehicle at a safe temperature.
  10. People living alone are at high risk of severe heat related illness. Check regularly on older people, those who are unable to leave their homes and anyone who may not be spending at least several hours every day in air conditioned places for signs of heat-related illness.

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Lauren Sundstrom Lauren is a Staff Writer and Projects Assistant at Vancity Buzz. She is a graduate of BCIT's Broadcast and Online Journalism program. She loves reporting on breaking news and lifestyle content. If you feel like you have a story that needs to be told, fire her a tweet.
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