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B.C. doctor's tips to avoid heatstroke

Last Updated Jun 25, 2021 at 2:05 am PDT


Interior Health's top doctor says avoid spending time outdoors between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Dr. Sue Pollock says people most at risk include babies, seniors, people with chronic illness or breathing issues

Symptoms to watch out for: muscle cramps, heavy sweating, feeling light-headed, nausea or vomiting

KELOWNA (NEWS 1130) — Temperatures in B.C. are expected to soar well into the 30s this weekend, which means a big risk of heatstroke.

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Dr. Sue Pollock, chief medical health officer for Interior Health, explains a heat-related illness happens when your body heats up faster than it can cool itself down. That can lead to weakness, disorientation, and exhaustion.

“There are a number of symptoms associated with heat-related illness, and they can range from quite mild to very severe requiring medical care by healthcare provider,” she says.

“Often heat-related illness will start with the individual having very pale, cool and moist skin. They may be sweating very heavily, they may experience muscle cramping, swelling, fatigue and weakness.”

Pollock says if things get worse, you might become confused, disoriented and even hallucinate. Eventually, heatstroke can lead to seizures and losing consciousness.

There are four main groups at risk from heat-related illness.

“The first are infants and young children up to four years of age. That’s because they rely on adults to make their environments cooler and more comfortable. The second group are elderly individuals, 65 years of age or older, who may not be able to compensate for heat stress efficiently or as well as other people,” Pollock explains.

“The third group are healthy individuals who do a lot of work outdoors or are being quite physical in a hot environment. And the fourth group are those with chronic diseases, including those with heart problems and breathing difficulties.”

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Pollock says most heat-related illnesses are mild and can be treated at home.

“Home treatment for heat-related illness in the mildest form may include moving to a cooler environment, drinking plenty of cool non-alcoholic fluids, resting, taking a cool shower or bath and wearing lightweight clothing,” she explains.

If symptoms persist for longer than an hour or get worse, you should see a doctor.

“It is very important to know the heat-related illness can be prevented. It is preventable.”

Pollock says to try and stay cool, move to an indoor environment that has air conditioning, and drink plenty of cool non-alcoholic fluids. You should also plan outdoor activities around the cooler time periods during the day.

We’d recommend that if they’re doing an outdoor activity, they do that before 11 a.m. or after 4 p.m.,” she says.

Make sure not to leave children or pets alone in a parked car because the temperatures of vehicles can rise quickly. You should also And wear sunscreen and wear light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing.