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Health Unit offers hot weather tips

SIMCOE, ON, JUNE 26, 2007 – The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit is cautioning people to take precautions against heat exhaustion and heat stroke as temperatures and humidity rise this week.

“One of the most important things to remember is to drink lots of water,” advises Jill Steen, the Health Unit’s Population Health Program Coordinator.

When temperatures rise, the body works hard to cool itself by sweating, Steen explains. This excess fluid loss requires more fluid intake. On a humid day, sweat does not evaporate as quickly. Therefore, as the temperature rises, it becomes more difficult for the body to allow excess heat to escape. The body attempts to regulate its temperature by carrying more blood to the skin and away from active muscles such as the brain and other vital organs, which is why people feel sleepy in extreme heat.

When the body’s cooling mechanisms don’t work, you can develop heat illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Heat exhaustion results from excessive heat and dehydration. Signs and symptoms include a rise in body temperature up to 102°F (39°C); cool, pale, clammy skin; profuse sweating; headache; nausea; fatigue; dizziness or light-headedness; and possible fainting. Treatment includes rest, water, ice packs and a cool environment. Serious cases may require IV fluids.

Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency. Signs and symptoms include extremely high core body temperature up to 106°F (41°C); hot, red, dry skin: rapid pulse; rapid, shallow breathing; headache; confusion; strange behaviour; and possible loss of consciousness. Treatment is to cool the heat stroke victim immediately. Immerse the person in cold water, such as a river, stream or bathtub. Alternatively, remove most of the victim’s clothing and douse him or her with water and fan vigorously. Wrapping in wet sheets can help increase the rate of heat loss, thereby cooling down the victim. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.

To avoid succumbing to these heat illnesses, the Health Unit offers several “beat the heat” tips:

  • Minimize exercise or work activity during high temperatures and/or high humidity, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Drink water before, during and after heat exposure, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
  • Avoid coffee, tea, cola and alcohol, as they increase dehydration.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat and loose-fitting, long-sleeved, light-coloured clothing.
  • Be aware that infants, children, seniors and overweight people are at higher risk.
  • Seek shelter and drink water immediately if you start to feel any heat stress symptoms.
  • Use sunscreen.

Media contact information:

Jill Steen, Program Coordinator, Population Health, Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit, 519-426-6170 Ext. 3238 or 905-318-6623 Ext. 3238.