Tips on how to fight the summer heat

The days are getting longer, the weather is getting milder and the sun is becoming warmer; summer has settled in comfortably. Aside from the joys of warm weather, summer may bring some inconveniences. Periods of extreme and oppressive heat are more and more frequent in Quebec and may lead to serious consequences for those who are at risk.

Risks related to heat waves

In order to keep its temperature balanced and release excessive heat, the body has certain mechanisms, such as perspiration. If the body has trouble keeping its temperature within the normal range, certain effects may occur. The following symptoms may appear:

  • headache;
  • cramps;
  • swelling of the hands, feet and ankles;
  • unusual fatigue and exhaustion;
  • general malaise.

In some cases, dehydration symptoms may also appear, including thirst, decreased need to pass urine, dark urine, dry skin and fast pulse and breathing. You must be vigilant and see a health professional if you have these symptoms.

Individuals at risk

Some individuals are at higher risk of having complications if exposed to extreme heat, such as:

  • infants and children under the age of 5;
  • the elderly;
  • pregnant women;
  • persons with decreasing independence or who live alone;
  • the chronically ill, such as persons suffering from respiratory disease;
  • individuals who have alcohol or substance abuse problems;
  • individuals who do heavy physical labour outdoors, such as construction workers;
  • workers who work in areas that use heat-producing processes, such as smelters or bakeries;
  • individuals who do vigorous exercise outdoors;

Children

Babies and children under the age of 5 are among those with the highest risk of heat-related complications. The deterioration of a child’s health status, especially a young child, can happen quickly and be hard to detect. It’s important to be vigilant and to see a doctor if symptoms appear. If in doubt, don’t hesitate to see a health professional. During a heat wave, it’s important that your child remain well-hydrated. Have him/her drink water regularly (every 20 minutes). In the case of a breast-fed baby, increase the frequency of feedings. Also, protect your children from the heat by having them wear a hat and light clothing. Moreover, avoid outdoor activities, especially between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., when the heat is at its strongest.

Risk factors

Certain factors increase the risk of heat-related malaise. For example:

  • high humidity levels
  • faint or lack of wind;
  • heat wave early on in the summertime (the body is not yet accustomed to extreme heat at the beginning of summer);
  • living in an urban area (temperatures are generally higher than in a rural setting);

Heatstroke

Heatstroke is the most serious complication of heat-related harmful effects. It occurs when the body is unable to adequately cool down. It can occur suddenly during a heat wave and must be treated quickly, as it is considered a medical emergency. The following are symptoms of heatstroke:

  • fever higher than 39.5°C (temperature taken by mouth)
  • dry, red and warm, or pale and cool skin;
  • dizziness or lightheadedness;
  • confusion, incoherent speech;
  • aggressiveness or strange behaviour;
  • general malaise;

Preventive measures

Fortunately, certain precautions can be taken to reduce the impact of heat on your health and that of your loved ones. Here are a few of them:

  • Stay well-hydrated by drinking at least six to eight glasses of water per day; if your doctor has made recommendations to you about hydration, be sure to follow them.
  • Avoid alcohol. It can make dehydration worse.
  • Cool-off regularly by going for a swim, taking a cool bath or shower or by applying a wet towel to your skin.
  • Keep physical exertion to a minimum.
  • Wear light clothing.
  • Remain as long as possible in cool and air-conditioned areas, such as shopping centres.
  • Check in on your loved ones’ health status, especially those with decreasing independence or who live alone, to make sure they are well.
  • Watch for extreme heat warnings or heat alerts and follow the recommendations given by experts.
  • Learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of heatstroke and dehydration.
  • If these signs or symptoms occur, or if you notice any other unusual ones, see a health professional promptly.

Thanks to these few preventive measures, you will be able to enjoy summer, while reducing heat-related risks.

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Tips on how to fight the summer heat

The days are getting longer, the weather is getting milder and the sun is becoming warmer; summer has settled in comfortably. Aside from the joys of warm weather, summer may bring some inconveniences. Periods of extreme and oppressive heat are more and more frequent in Quebec and may lead to serious consequences for those who are at risk.
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