The heat season had an early start this year and the probabilistic temperature forecast from Environment Canada indicates Western Canada will be facing above normal temperatures this summer. The hottest time period is approaching and Interior Health has some recommendations that can prevent and reduce the negative health impacts of extreme heat.
Climate change has led to more drastic temperature shifts and overall increase in temperatures and several communities in the Interior of British Columbia are at risk for extreme heat events. Community and individual adaptation can reduce health impacts of heat.
Environment and Climate Change Canada defines an extreme heat event for the Interior of British Columbia as two or more consecutive days with temperatures greater than or equal to 35°C with minimum overnight temperatures greater than or equal to 18°C.
Additional factors, such as exposure to high humidity, direct sunlight and lack of wind, can compound stress on the body. Furthermore, the number of days heat lasts is a differentiating factor on injury caused by extreme heat; the strain on the body increases as heat days extend. Some groups are more susceptible to heat than others.
Who Is At Risk for Health Impacts of Heat
People most at risk of heat-related illness include:
- Older adults
- People who live alone or are socially isolated
- Infants and children
- People who are physically active outdoors
- People who work outdoors
- People with heart problems and breathing difficulties
- People on certain medications
It is important to know that everyone can be affected by extreme heat. Symptoms of heavy sweating, nausea, headache, general weakness, dizziness and fainting are early signs of heat illness.
If milder symptoms of heat illness are experienced, relief from heat can reduce symptoms. Untreated, mild symptoms can quickly escalate to heat stroke, which is a medical emergency.
Call 911 if you or a person you are caring for has high body temperature, confusion or is unconscious. If possible, move the individual to a cool and shaded environment and apply cool water to the skin.
Short Term Relief from Heat
There are some actions that you and your organization can take to prepare for this heat season. Identify air conditioned venues in your community that are accessible to the general public.
These spaces can serve as short term “heat relief centers”. Reach out to the owner/manager of the venue to explore the possibility of publicly identifying the space as a place to go if an extreme heat event is declared in the community.
Office of the Medical Health Officers,