Don't Get Caught in the Heat

Jul 12, 2022

By Barret Procyshyn, Pharmacist at Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

After a very long spring or missing summer, the rain may be easing off and now we can enjoy the weather. However, as it warms up, please use caution. We hear the words heat stroke and heat exhaustion all the time however these terms are used very loosely. Extreme heat is also a term which does not have specific numbers attached to it. Extreme heat is simply defined as summertime temperatures that are much hotter and more humid than average. An extreme temperature in Manitoba might be a normal day in the southern US. What matters is if the temperature and humidity is higher than we are used to and fail to adapt to it. While we may not have a high number of scorching, hot days Manitobans know it can get hot and humid fast.

Heat exhaustion one of several conditions lumped into a category called heat illness or heat-related illness. Heat related illnesses occur on the spectrum, with terms like exhaustion and stroke used to describe the severity. It occurs when temperatures are high and especially when it becomes very humid. This makes it more difficult for the body to use the sweating mechanism to effectively cool down. The body temperature goes to high, sometimes to dangerous levels.

In most cases, people develop heat exhaustion and other heat illnesses when they stay out in high temperatures too long or when they are exerting themselves in the high temperatures. The elderly and young children and babies are at highest risk of heat exhaustion. You are at increased risk or a heat related illness if you are obese, dehydrated, have heart disease or circulatory problems. Sunburn and alcohol use also decrease the body's ability to adjust to increased temperatures and humidity.

We are all aware how to prevent heat exhaustion, it is just easier said than done. Keep an eye on the temperatures and the "feels like" temperatures on your phone or by listening to weather reports on 730 CKDM. Limit your time in the elements and do not over-exert yourself. Wear light loose fitting clothing, stay hydrated and wear sunscreen on exposed skin.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention includes the following symptoms for heat exhaustion: Heavy sweating, cold, pale, and clammy skin, fast, weak pulse, nausea or vomiting, muscle cramps, tiredness or weakness, dizziness, headache, and fainting.

If you begin to experience heat exhaustion start taking precautionary steps immediately. Move yourself to a cool place and loosen your clothing. Take a cool shower or bath if being upright makes you feel faint. If this is not possible put cool, wet cloths on your body. Sip cool water, as vigorously drinking large amounts of water may increase nausea or vomiting. Most importantly get out of the hot environment and try to stay out.

You will want to see a physician if you experience continued vomiting, your symptoms worsen, or the symptoms last longer than an hour. You must keep track of your condition, as heat exhaustion can be deadly. If the body is heated faster than it can cool down, body function declines and organ damage can occur if it is prolonged.

Heat stroke, located at the severe end of the heat related illness spectrum is when the body temperature reaches 39.5 C or higher (103°F or higher). The skin becomes hot and red. It can be dry or damp. The heart races with a fast, strong pulse and headaches develop. Nausea, confusion and losing consciousness are also possible. Heat stroke is a medical emergency so call 9-1-1 right away. Move the person to a cooler place and do not give them liquids. Cool them with wet cloths.

Enjoy the summer, while staying cool and hydrated.

The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care professional.


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