We are in heart of summer and with that comes the heat.  We have had a couple of heat waves already and you know there are more on the way.  Although certain people need to be careful during a heat wave (elderly people, babies) everyone has to be careful. Here are some things to be aware of as the heat hits.

When we are living during a spell of extreme heat, our bodies get hotter which opens up the blood vessels.  This can lead to a drop in blood pressure and makes the heart work harder to pump the blood through our bodies. This can cause mild symptoms such as an itchy heat rash or swollen feet.  As well, excess heat leads to increased sweating which leads to loss of fluids and salt, which can create an unbalance of water vs electrolytes within the body.  The combination of lower blood pressure and imbalance of electrolytes can lead to heat exhaustion.  If our blood pressure drops too much it can increase the risk of heart attacks.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • fainting
  • muscle cramps
  • headaches
  • heavy sweating
  • tiredness
  • cold, pale, and clammy skin

Our bodies work to keep a core temperature of 98F (37C) no matter what the external temperature may be.  As the weather gets hotter, our bodies have to work harder to keep cool.  This opens more blood vessels close to the skin in an effort to lose heat and we start sweating.  As the sweat evaporates, it helps to cool our bodies.

There are things you can do to stay safe in the heat.

  • Wear clothing that is light-weight and loose-fitting
  • Stay in air-conditioned places as much as possible.
  • Talk to your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters you can go to if you can’t cool your home down.
  • Limit outdoor activities to cooler times of the day (early morning/evenings)
  • Drink plenty of fluids and limit the amount of alcohol
  • When outside keep in the shade and use sunscreen with a high SPF and UVA rating.
  • Stay in touch with friends and family who may struggle in the heat (older people or those with health conditions)
  • Do not leave babies, young children and animals in a locked hot car.

If you do see someone suffering from heat exhaustion try to move them to a cool place.  Cool their skin by gently spraying them with water and encourage them to drink water.  If they do not recover within 30 minutes, the condition has possibly worsened into heat stroke and you should call 911 immediately.  People with heat stroke may stop sweating even though they are very hot.  Their temperature could go over 140F (40C) and they might have seizures or lose consciousness.

Heat can kill people.  Do everything you can to stay cool and recognize the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke so you can react according as soon as possible.