Southern Saskatchewan is experiencing seasonally high temperatures this week. A heat wave looms above, with the overnight lows not expected to reach low enough temperatures to allow for proper cooling of homes or of those living within the homes.
Heat wave temperatures can lead to a number of heat-related illness, ranging from simple dehydration to heat exhaustion and even heat stroke. Dr. Lanre Medu, Chief Medical Officer with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, advises those dealing with the heat wave to listen to the body’s signals about what it needs.
“Essentially, your body, as much as possible, is able to tell you, give you pointers, as to when you need to rehydrate,” he said. “This would include feelings such as excessive thirst, or when you feel weak or faint, so these are things people need to pay attention to.”
The body will tell you when you need to hydrate, but drinking more water is always a good strategy, along with staying out of the heat as much as possible. He said that older people, young children and those with pre-existing health issues are more likely to be affected by the heat. His best advice to prevent heat-related illness is to stay out of the heat and seek cooler climes.
“If you staying in areas where there is heat, in direct sunlight or where it’s hot, a person should move to cooler areas, remove yourself from that direct heat as much as possible,” he said.
He suggests staying close to air-conditioned areas, shady spots, and areas where water is accessible.
Dr. Medu clarified the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke. He said heat exhaustion symptoms include feeling weak or faint, with the body temperature staying below 40 degrees Celsius. Sweating is still happening with heat exhaustion. With heat stroke, however, the skin becomes dry.
“What you find, essentially is body temperature exceeds 40 degrees Celcius, which is really high,” he said. “Characteristically, heat stroke is also associated with dry skin, because one of the things that happen is, when we sweat, the body is helping us cool down.”
He said heat stroke is the final stage because the body can no longer sweat.
“If you have that dry skin, excess body temperature, vomiting and weakness, and the person may be confused,” he listed.
Dr. Medu added that anyone with these symptoms must seek immediate medical attention, but that they will more than likely be unable to call for medical help themselves. Anyone in proximity to someone experiencing heat stroke has a responsibility to get them medical help as soon as possible.