When the mercury climbs above 32° in southern Saskatchewan and the overnight low is above 16°, Environment and Climate Change Canada issues a heat warning. These warnings, however, are not to just let people know that it is hot out. After all, just going outside you can tell that it is hot out. Instead, the warnings are issued because of the potential dangers of the heat.
“In particular we’re talking about the very young, the very old, pregnant people, people who work in the heat or whose normal job it is to work outdoors,” explained Natalie Hasell. She is a Warning Preparedness Meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada.
When the temperatures get into the 30s, there is an increased risk of various heat illnesses. It is strongly recommended that people drink plenty of water to remain hydrated, take breaks to cool down, and get as much time in the shade as possible.
Some of the various heat illnesses that can come up are heat edema, heat cramps, heat rash, fainting, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
“Heat stroke is the most serious, basically because your brain is being affected,” Hasell said. “It is a scenario where you have a very high body temperature but you’re not sweating so that you just can’t cool off, and it can show up as confusion and a lack of coordination.”
Hasell recommended that if you see someone who could be suffering from heat stroke, get that person to a cooler spot, cool them down with water and fan them and call emergency services.
Another concern during the heat is people or pets being left in a vehicle. Too often across the continent, there are stories of children or pets dying from the heat while in a vehicle each year.
“I would very much like it if people could pay close attention to their own behaviour,” Hasell added. “Don’t forget people in the car. If you do have to bring your pets or your people on your errands, bring them into the store with you.”
She also countered the argument that someone could always just leave the air conditioning running in a car, thus staving off the risk of injury or death due to the heat.
“Even if you leave the air conditioning on, or if that’s your plan, if the air conditioning fails or something gets turned off by accident, that temperature can spike and things can go from fine to not fine very quickly.”
Another issue that isn’t often brought up when it comes to extreme heat is how various medications may have an impact on how the body handles it. Hasell noted most often, these are medications pertaining to mental health, so she recommended contacting your doctor or pharmacist to see if how a condition is being treated could make someone more susceptible to heat.