Know the Signs of Heat Stress

It’s going to be a hot Stampede!heat

Those of us living in Southern Alberta will be taking part in many Calgary Stampede-related activities over the course of the next week. Though the forecast is a bit milder than last year and includes some rain, we are in for a couple of very sunny, very hot days. When you’re busy having fun, it can sometimes be too easy to forget to take proper care of your body, so this is a good time to refresh yourself on how to avoid, recognize and treat heat-related illness.

For more in-depth training on this subject, please consider registering for our Heat Illness Awareness course.

The following information has been taken from the Health Canada public website.

What is heat illness?

Heat illnesses include heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat fainting, heat edema (swelling of hands, feet and ankles), heat rash and heat cramps (muscle cramps). Heat illnesses can affect you quickly and are mainly caused by over-exposure to heat or over-exertion in the heat.

Know your risks

Hot temperatures can be dangerous, especially if you have:

  • breathing difficulties;
  • heart problems;
  • hypertension;
  • kidney problems;
  • a mental illness such as depression or dementia;
  • Parkinson’s disease; or
  • if you take medication for any of these conditions.

If you are taking medication or have a health condition, ask your doctor or pharmacist if it increases your health risk in the heat and follow their recommendations.

Know the signs and symptoms

Symptoms of heat illness include:

  • dizziness or fainting;
  • nausea or vomiting;
  • headache;
  • rapid breathing and heartbeat;
  • extreme thirst (dry mouth or sticky saliva); and
  • decreased urination with unusually dark yellow urine.

If you experience any of these symptoms during hot weather, immediately move to a cool place and drink liquids. Water is best.

Heat stroke

Heat stroke is a medical emergency! Call 911 immediately if you are caring for a someone who has a high body temperature and is either unconscious, confused or has stopped sweating.

While waiting for help, cool the person right away by:

  • moving them to a cool place, if you can;
  • applying cold water to large areas of the skin or clothing; and
  • fanning the person as much as possible.

Heat illness can be prevented

Stay hydrated

Drink plenty of cool liquids, especially water, before you feel thirsty to decrease your risk of dehydration. Thirst is not a good indicator of dehydration. If you consume alcoholic beverages, make sure that you drink extra water to ward off dehydration.

Health Canada has several tips for increasing your water intake:

  • Remind yourself to drink water by leaving a glass by the sink.
  • Flavouring water with natural fruit juice may make it more appealing.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables as they have a high water content.
  • If you eat less, you may need to drink more water.

Stay cool

Dress for the weather – Wear loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing made from breathable fabric.

Avoid sun exposure

Shade yourself by wearing a wide-brimmed, breathable hat or using an umbrella.

  • Tree-shaded areas could be as much as 5°C/9°F cooler than the surrounding area.
  • Use a sunscreen that is SPF 15 or higher and follow the manufacturer’s directions. Remember, sunscreen will protect against the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays but not from the heat.