Heat can affect everyone's health but some people are more susceptible to severe heat-related illness and death.
Seniors and persons with chronic poor health are at greater risk and may not perceive that they are getting too hot. People with mobility challenges may also need extra help to take steps to keep cool.
- Pay attention to the media, Environment Canada and your health authority for warnings of incoming heat. Use the British Columbia Heat Impacts Prediction System (BCHIPS) to get advance warning of when heat can be a health risk. Early summer hot spells are most dangerous because our bodies are unaccustomed to handling heat.
- Identify a cooler space in your home and prepare it so you can stay there at night. You may need to reconfigure daily living arrangements to deal with heat episodes.
- Practice opening doors and windows to move cool air in at night and shutting windows during the day to prevent hot outdoor air from coming inside.
- Make ice and prepare jugs of cool water.
- Check that you have a working fan.
- Identify people who may be more susceptible to heat and develop a buddy system. Check in with your hot weather buddy frequently especially in the evening and early morning.
- Know the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness so you can identify problems early on. Headache, confusion, unsteadiness, loss of thirst, nausea/vomiting are signs of dangerous heat exhaustion.
Heat builds indoors over the course of a few days and it may stay much hotter indoors than outdoors overnight. It can get dangerously hot indoors without air conditioning -- the longer the heat lasts, the more dangerous it becomes.
- Check on people at higher risk in-person to evaluate the temperature indoors or ask them to tell you what it says on their thermostat. Encourage those who may not know they are susceptible to take cool baths, sleep in the coolest room, or stay with friends.
- If you do not have air conditioning, try to find somewhere with air conditioning especially if you are at increased risk. If you have air conditioning and susceptible members of your family do not, bring them to your house.
- Sleep in the coolest room of the house, even if that is not your bedroom. Sleeping in the basement or outside will provide relief to the body overnight, if possible. Set that space up for comfort, being sure you have water to drink and easy access to a toilet.
- If you cannot access air conditioning and/or a cool room or basement, consider putting an ice tray in front of a fan, using a personal mister, and wearing a wet shawl or shirt or using a wet sheet at night.
- Sit in a cool or tepid bath to draw heat from the body into the water or take a cool shower.
- Open windows and doors when the outdoor temperature goes down below the indoor temperature a night. Shut windows and close curtains in the morning to keep cooler air in and to keep the sun out. Leaving windows open during the day lets the hot air indoors.
- Drink lots of water. You may not feel thirsty even if your body needs water. Drink extra water whether or not you think you need it, especially during warm nights. Pay attention to the quantity and colour of your urine. Dark yellow urine is a sign of dangerous dehydration.
- Watch out for headache, confusion, unsteadiness, loss of thirst, nausea/vomiting -- they are signs of dangerous heat exhaustion.
- Lower your activity level. If you need to do errands, do them when it is cooler outside, early or late in the day.
- Never leave children or pets alone in a parked car.
- Find cool spaces in the community like shopping centres or libraries and spend time there.
- Protect yourself from the sun by staying in the shade, avoiding direct sun mid-day, wearing a hat and protective clothing, using sunscreen, and wearing UV-protective eyewear.
- Seek cooler, breezier areas when outdoors, such as large parks near to water with lots of trees.