Nanaimo’s climate isn’t typically one that includes an abundance of sunshine – which is why the summer months can be such a welcome change. However that sudden wealth of warmth and sunlight can bring with it some potentially serious health risks in the form of Heat Stroke.
Interchangeably referred to as Heat Exhaustion, heat stroke occurs after long exposure to high temperatures, something that can easily occur at the beach, picnicking at a park and even when doing yard work on a hot day. Excessive heat can drive the individual’s body temperature far higher than is safe, and can (in extreme cases) lead to organ failure and even death.
The symptoms of heat stroke include headaches, dizziness, excessive sweating, muscle cramps, skin that is moist with goose bumps, feeling especially tired or faint, stomach aches and nausea and a weak but rapid pulse. Heat stroke can reduce blood pressure when standing and can cause some people to pass out. Vigorous physical activity, such as sports or manual labour can accelerate the symptoms. High humidity weather can also play a role in fostering heat stroke.
Fortunately there are a number of things an individual can do to prevent or at last reduce the impact of this seasonal malady. Chief among these is to dress for the weather, rather than for fashion. On a hot summer day it’s important to wear light, loose-fitting clothing. Excessive clothing or wearing clothing that’s too tight prevents the body from cooling naturally. Airflow helps to keep the body cool and healthy.
While a summer tan can be appealing, too much sunshine can burn unprotected flesh. Sunburned flesh inhibits the body from cooling itself, making the individual more susceptible to heat stroke. When outdoors, whether at the beach or just in your own backyard, it’s important to wear a loose-fitting wide-brimmed hat. It’s also a good idea to wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from glare and damage.
Suntan lotion is a vital part of any heat stroke prevention campaign. If you’re planning to be outdoors for an extended period the use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 or higher is essential. Many health care professionals actually recommend using suntan lotion with an SPF of 18 or more for added protection. Apply the sunscreen generously and do so about every two hours, or more frequently if sweating excessively and especially if you’ve been swimming.
Keeping hydrated is also important to prevent heat stroke. By remaining hydrated the body will have the means to sweat, which aids the natural cooling process. If planning to be outside in the sun always remember to drink plenty of fluids. Consuming alcohol however is not recommended as it can actually accelerate the dehydration process. Remaining hydrated is especially vital for individuals routinely taking medication as certain medications can actually impact the body’s ability to dissipate heat.
These are just a few tips to help reduce the potential for heat stroke this summer. Do your own research and develop a plan that works for you and your individual lifestyle. Nanaimo’s summer may be short, but it’s always enjoyable. Don’t let heat stroke prevent you from making the most of these long summer days.