The Heat Is On! Tips To Prevent Heat Related Illnesses

Aug 14, 2023

Summer in the City – The Lovin Spoonful recorded this iconic song, released in July 1966, about the scorching heat most urban-dwellers experience during the summer months. The song contrasts the heat and noise of the hot days with the relief found in the cooler nights – allowing the nightlife to begin.

It’s a classic song for our generation and I doubt there’s a retiree who lived during the ‘60s that isn’t humming this tune as they swelter with the extreme temperatures here in Canada this summer and around the globe.

With record temperatures ravaging regions across the planet (this past July is going down as the hottest month in 120,000 years), and health officials warning locals and travellers alike to heed the heat and take precautions against illnesses caused by it, the song is certainly even more relevant now in 2023.

Signs You’re Succumbing To The Heat

There are several signs and symptoms which are a warning that you may be being severely affected by the heat. Knowing what they are is the best way to avoid or mitigate a possible serious health situation.

Since heat illnesses are probably going to occur more frequently as the world increasingly faces prolonged and unprecedented summer temperatures, it would be a good idea for all of us to learn more about them and also teach our children/grandchildren to recognise the signs as well.

Two Heat-Related Medical Emergencies To Avoid

Learn the warning signs which suggest that it’s time to quit outdoor activities and get out of the sun into a cooler place. These warning signs and symptoms can include heavy sweating and dizziness, excessive thirst, muscle spasms and even vomiting.

1. Heat Stroke

According to an ABC7 News report, “Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. It’s what happens when the body loses its ability to sweat. The skin gets hot and red, and the pulse quickens as the person’s body temperature climbs to 103 F (39 C) or higher. Headaches set in, along with nausea, confusion, and even fainting.”

The news story continues citing Jon Femling, an emergency medicine physician and scientist at the University of New Mexico, who explains how an overheated body tries to compensate by pumping blood to the skin as a way to cool off. And the more a person breathes, the more they lose fluids, becoming increasingly dehydrated.

“So, one of the first things that happens is, your muscles start to feel tired as your body starts to shunt away,” he said. “And then you can start to have organ damage where your kidneys don’t work, your spleen, your liver. If things get really bad, then you start to not be perfusing your brain the same way.”

2. Heat Exhaustion

The ABC7 News story goes on to say, “During extreme heat events, one of the most common ways people can die is from cardiovascular collapse, experts said, because of the extra energy the heart has to expend to help the body compensate for the hot temperatures.”

If a person’s body becomes cold and clammy while exposed to high heat, or displays other signs such as heavy sweating, muscle cramps, weakness, dizziness and nausea, they’re most likely suffering from heat exhaustion. We’ve seen this happen to people when playing tennis on a hot summer afternoon. It can even happen (as it did once to us) while simply sitting under the hot sun in the stands watching an outdoor tennis event.

Experts also say that when temperatures skyrocket heat exhaustion is more likely to affect the elderly and children as well as people with health conditions. And it’s not just the heat – humidity can make it more difficult for the body to produce sweat as a way to cool off.

Find Relief From The Heat

In general, it’s recommended by health officials to stay indoors on super-hot days, seek out air-conditioned buildings/venues, and drink more water than usual. Also, try to avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol.

Starting to feel the effects of the heat? The best thing to do is to move to a cool place or into the shade, loosen your clothing, and sip cool water.

The main takeaway is that people (especially older individuals and children) need to be aware of the signs of heat stroke not only in themselves but also in others. Often people with heat stroke are unable to recognise that they’re in danger because their brains have already been affected and they’re not thinking rationally due to confusion.

Suspect someone is suffering from heat stroke? Medical experts suggest you call 911 and, in the meantime, try to lower the person’s body temperature by applying cool, wet washcloths, or get the victim into a cool bath. Stay safe out there, friends!



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