How to spot heat exhaustion and heat stroke

The number of heat-related deaths in Quebec has climbed to 33, as the province endures what’s being reported as its worst heat wave in decades.

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Heat warnings have estimated Humidex values reaching as high as 40 to 45 degrees Celsius in parts of Quebec, with Environment Canada extending their heat and smog warning to parts of Ontario and Maritime provinces.

Health officials have stated that those who died of heat-related deaths were all adults with pre-existing health conditions and did not have air-conditioning in their homes.

Temperatures are expected to cool off later this week, however officials are still warning Canadians to be alert to the signs and risks of heat-related illnesses.

Who’s at risk?

While anyone can develop heat exhaustion or heat stroke, extreme heat and compromised air quality due to smog warnings poses a particular threat for infants, children, the elderly and those with heart and respiratory disease. Officials are advising friends and family to pay extra attention to those at risk, and when possible, re-locate those without air-conditioning.

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Anyone who suffers from heart, lung or kidney disease, high-blood pressure, diabetes, alcoholism as well as anyone overweight or severely underweight are at an increased risk for heat-related illnesses and must be extra-cautious.

Infants, children, the elderly as well as anyone with a chronic or mental illness are at an increased risk of developing heat-related illnesses. Image via Getty Images.

Heat-related illnesses, also known as hyperthermia, is caused by the body’s inability to cool itself, causing body temperatures to rise. Both heat exhaustion and heat stroke are dangerous conditions that often present with flu-like symptoms, and that many people may not be aware of.

 Symptoms to look out for 

Heat exhaustion symptoms include muscle cramping, fatigue, headache, nausea or vomiting and dizziness or fainting.

Even with heat exhaustion, a person’s skin may feel cool or moist — indicating that their body is still able to regulate its temperature. However, shallow breathing and a rapid, weak pulse are all indicators that someone is suffering from heat stroke.

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Without medical attention, heat exhaustion can escalate to heat stroke with potentially fatal outcomes.

Symptoms of heat stroke include a body temperature greater than 39.4 degrees Celsius (103 degrees Fahrenheit), visibly red, hot skin that’s dry (no sweating), rapid, strong pulse, headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion or unconsciousness.

Image via Getty Images.

Advanced heat stroke can cause damage to the brain and can potentially result in organ failure and death. Immediate medical attention is advised if you suspect you have either heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Preventing heat-related illnesses 

Air conditioning is the best resource to prevent heat-related illnesses or death. Health officials advise spending time in public places with air conditioning, such as shopping malls, to help limit exposure to extreme temperatures.

To help prevent heat exhaustion or heat stroke, limit your sun exposure during peak midday hours when the sun is at it’s strongest and avoid any physical activity or exertion.

Image via Getty Images.

Wearing sunscreen with an SPF greater than 30, hats and light clothing, as well as staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water or sports drinks are crucial in preventing heat-related illness.

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Monitoring the colour and frequency of your urine is an easy way to spot dehydration. Infrequent use of the bathroom or dark coloured urine is a key indicator that your body requires fluids. Parents of young children who notice they require less diaper changes should also be concerned.

Be sure to give fresh water to pets and leave water for your animals outdoors in shaded areas.

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