Avoiding heat exhaustion and heat stroke when temperatures soar

By Lara Fominoff @LaraFominoff on Twitter
July 5, 2018 - 2:50pm

LETHBRIDGE - According to Environment Canada, temperatures are forecast to hit 34 degrees or higher in Lethbridge and other areas of southern Alberta Friday and will stay hot.

For vulnerable populations like young children, the elderly and those with chronic ailments, it also means the increased likelihood of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, according to Alberta Health's Dr. Vivian Suttorp.

"Heat exhaustion people feel tired, they feel thirsty, they feel a little bit lethargic. They may feel nauseous. That needs to be identified quickly, especially in the vulnerable. Get them out of that situation, hydrate them and cool them off."

But when it comes to heat stroke, Suttorp says it's a medical emergency.

"That is when the body is unable to regulate its temperature anymore. So, people stop sweating. They lose consciousness and become unresponsive and can actually die."

Suttorp explains there are some things everyone should do to avoid getting heat exhaustion or heat stroke including wearing sunglasses, hats and sunblock, and staying well hydrated. 

"Humidity actually creates 70 per cent of heat stress...because it impacts how we evaporate and how we sweat, and how our bodies are able to cool off. Then we've got the UV radiation and then the heat. So, there are three aspects to heat stress."

She says trying to stay in cooler environments also helps, along with avoiding the heat and sunlight between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.

And even though the public has heard it over and over, it still happens every year: never, ever leave children or pets in a hot vehicle - even for a few minutes.

"Very young children one, they don't drink in response to thirst. So, their thirst cues aren't similar to adults. And secondly, their sweating mechanisms aren't established. So very young infants are at more risk of heat stress and heat exhaustion and heat stroke."

The high temperatures are expected to last for the next week. 

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