Exhaustion to Stroke: Why Summer Safety Is Important

With the official calendar start of summer just past, the Okanagan has embraced summer and is heating up, bringing in those sunny skies and climbing temperatures. Whether you love the sun and are ready to swim, or you’re just counting down the minutes until you can stand in front of an air conditioner again, it’s important to recognize the dangers of the sun and the heat it provides, and be ready to protect yourself and others.

Heat stroke is a medical emergency that should not be ignored, as it can and does lead to unfortunate deaths each year. When the sun is out, temperatures rise, and humidity climbs, it is important to pay attention to your body and be aware of your limitations. Heat exhaustion, which can develop into stroke, can come on suddenly, and immediate treatment is necessary for the health of those afflicted.

Learn the signs: dizziness, dehydration, fatigue, nausea, weakness, cramping, clammy skin, fainting, headache, rapid pulse, rapid breathing, and confusion, are all symptoms of heat exhaustion and stroke. If you are out in the heat, and begin to feel unwell, get to cooler grounds immediately.

What to do? If you suspect that you, or someone you know is suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke, pull them out of the sun and heat immediately. Find shade, or better yet, seek a cool indoor environment, and call 911. Provide immediate hydration and remove extra unnecessary layers. Getting the person’s core temperature down is key. Do so carefully to avoid shock and shivering. Fans, wet towels on the body, can all help in lowering the body’s temperature and expel heat.

How can you prevent heat exhaustion from setting in? Play and work smart when out this summer with these tips:

Put it on! Find your favourite sunscreen and apply it generously, paying attention to the specific brand’s instructions for how long it lasts and being diligent with reapplication. Use a sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays (also referred to as broad spectrum), with a minimum 30SPF rating. Water proofing protects against the weather, water, and sweating it off. Wear a hat to protect your head from the sun, and consider a wider brim for increased coverage.

Take it off! Summer is not the time for layering. Wear loose, light coloured, comfortable clothing that breathes, allowing the body to successfully sweat and dissipate heat.

Hydrate and brake! Put the stop on and take a moment to rehydrate your body. Take breaks throughout the day to rest in some shade and rehydrate and fuel your body with light snacks. Water and sports drinks top the list of good hydration choices, with caffeinated and alcoholic beverages causing dehydration instead.

Make your own oasis! An umbrella can provide instant shade, and portable handheld battery operated fans can be easily and cheaply found and used to help blast through the heat.

Check your facts! Before you go out check the weather and see just how hot it may really be! Understand your UV index rating (the higher, the greater the chance you burn), Humidex rating (high humidity inhibits efficient perspiration, and can make a hot day extra dangerous), temperature and possibilities for cloud, rain, or straight sun. The combination of all those facts can give you a good idea of how hot it is, and how hot your body will feel it is.

Have a safe and wonderful summer!