Extreme Heat

Although BC's South Coast does not typically experience the same extreme summer heat as other regions of Canada, our summer temperatures can climb to dangerous highs. Heat-related deaths and illnesses are 100% preventable, yet many people get sick or die every year during periods of extreme heat.

Tips to Keep Cool
You Can Help
Coping with the Heat
Extreme Heat and Pets
Coping with Poor Air Quality
Reducing the Risk of Interface Fires

Tips to Keep Cool


Dress for Heat: Lightweight, loose fitting, light-coloured clothing reflects heat and sunlight, and helps your body maintain normal temperatures. Add a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) if heading outdoors.

Stay Hydrated: Make sure that you drink plenty of cold, alcohol-free, caffeine-free, and sugar-free liquids. Persons who have epilepsy, heart/kidney or liver disease, are on fluid restrictive diets, or have a problem with fluid retention should consult a physician before increasing their consumption of fluids.

Cool Down: Spend time in air-conditioned spaces (e.g. shopping malls, movie theatres, public buildings, libraries, grocery stores - especially frozen food aisles and recreation centres). Electric fans will not prevent heat-related illness when the temperature climbs above 35 degrees celsius.

Hot Cars: NEVER leave children or pets alone in a parked car. Temperatures can rise to 52 C (125 F) within 20 minutes in an enclosed vehicle when the outside temperature is 34 C (93 F). Leaving the car windows slightly open or "cracked" will not keep the inside of the vehicle at a safe temperature.

Keep it Cool: Cover windows that receive morning and afternoon sun with drapes and shades. Stay on the lowest floor and out of the sunshine, if air-conditioning is not available.

Get Wet: Take a dip in one of the pools on the North Shore or head down to the beach for a swim - but remember your sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) and don't spend too long under the scorching sun. The Mahon Spray Park is another great place to cool off with the family.

Live in the Shadows: Try to avoid exposure to direct sunlight. Walk leisurely along a forested trail or find a large-canopied tree to sit under with a good book. Limit daytime outdoor activity to early morning and late afternoon.

Keep Connected: Check regularly on older people, and those who are unable to leave their homes, for signs of heat-related illness.

Slow Down: Strenuous activities should be reduced, eliminated, or rescheduled to the coolest time of the day. If working outside in the heat, monitor co-workers and have them do the same for you.



You Can Help

Before extreme heat
To prepare for an extreme heat event, try to do the following:

  • Install window air-conditioners snugly and insulate if necessary
  • If you have air-conditioning, check air-conditioning ducts for proper insulation
  • Weather-strip doors and sills to keep cool air in
  • Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun with drapes, shades, awnings, or louvers (outdoor awnings or louvers can reduce the heat that enters a home by up to 80 percent)
  • Keep storm windows up all year
  • Ensure that all at-risk members of your family are aware of the increased risks associated with extreme heat so that when a heat wave hits, they know how best to reduce their risk of a medical situation
  • Watch for updates on our website, Twitter, and Facebook that advise when to expect extreme heat and how best to be prepared

What are the health risks?
The health risks associated with an extreme heat event range from the uncomfortable to the life threatening. However, all heat-related illnesses should be taken seriously and you should be aware of the symptoms. People who are most at risk of serious side-effects, including death, from heat-related illnesses are infants and young children, people aged 65 or older, and people who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure.

Here's a list of the most common heat-related illnesses, the symptoms, and what you can do to help in an illness situation:

Sunburn is the most common and least serious heat-related illness, but it should still be taken seriously. Symptoms of sunburn are skin redness and pain, possible swelling, blisters, fever, and headache. To treat sunburn, take a cool shower and use a gentle soap to remove any oils that may be blocking your pores and preventing your body from cooling naturally. Aloe vera provides relief against the searing pain of sunburn and it can be applied to all affected areas. If blisters develop, apply dry, sterile ointments and seek medical attention.

Heat cramps are another heat-related illness characterized by painful muscle spasms usually in the legs and abdomen, as well as excessive sweating. To treat heat cramps, move the victim to a cool area, gently massage areas of the body where spasms are occurring, and if the victim is not experiencing nausea, allow them to sip up to a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes.

Heat exhaustion is characterized by heavy sweating although skin may be cool, pale, or clammy. A weak but rapid pulse is another symptom of heat exhaustion and, although the body may not be overly heated, body temperature will likely begin to rise. Other possible symptoms are fainting, dizziness, nausea, muscle cramps, and headaches. To treat heat exhaustion, have the victim lie down in a cool place, loosen or remove their clothing and apply damp clothes or cloths, and fan the victim or move him or her to an air-conditioned room. If the victim is conscious, give them up to half a glass of water every 15 minutes. Discontinue water if the victim becomes nauseated and seek immediate medical attention in the event of vomiting.

Heat/Sun Stroke, the most serious of the common heat-related illnesses, is characterized by a high body temperature (105+), skin that is hot, red, and dry, a rapid but weak pulse, and rapid but shallow breathing. The victim, in all likelihood, will not be sweating and may be agitated, confused or unconscious. In the event of heat stroke, call 911 immediately or seek immediate medical attention - failure to act quickly can be fatal to the victim. If waiting for emergency services to arrive at the scene, move the victim to a cool place (preferably air-conditioned), remove their clothing, place them in a cool bath, or sponge their body with cool water. Fan the victim to help reduce body temperature and always watch for signs of breathing problems while waiting for emergency services to arrive.

Coping with the Heat

Environment Canada and the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) are reminding British Columbians to take certain precautions to protect themselves from the heat. There are a variety of mild to severe symptoms linked with heat-related illness, including thirst, dizziness, confusion, weakness and fainting/collapsing. These are especially likely to occur in the elderly and people with chronic conditions who are exposed to the heat.

For more information on heat-related illness, please call BC HealthLink at 811, or visit BC Center for Disease Control.

Extreme Heat & Pets

Extreme heat events are just as hard on our animal loved ones as they are on people. Here are some tips to help your pets beat the heat and remain happy, healthy, and alive:

Downtime: During the hottest part of the day, make sure that your pet is resting comfortably in a cool part of the house with no exposure to direct sunlight. Conversely, don't walk or exercise your pet during the hottest times of the day. Just like people, extreme heat can be harmful or even fatal to our pets if they are overly exposed or pushed too hard.

Hydration: It's vital to ensure that your pet has constant access to cool water. Dehydration can set in quickly if insufficient water is provided.

Like master like pet: Just like people, pets can suffer, and even die, from many of the same heat-related illnesses, the most serious of which is heat stroke, but just like people, heat-related deaths and illnesses in pets can be 100% preventable if precautions are taken.

Leave your pets at home: As mentioned above in extreme heat at a glance, the temperature inside a vehicle can quickly climb to dangerous levels during an extreme heat event. Never leave your pet alone in a parked vehicle and do not be fooled into thinking that leaving the window cracked will help. It won't.

Coping with Poor Air Quality

Increased temperatures are often accompanied by worsening air quality. Smog is a visible example of air pollution and smog levels increase during the hottest months. Aside from the visual displeasure that smog creates, summertime air pollution is also a serious health issue. Read on to find out more about what you can do to keep safe and to help minimize air pollution this summer.

Air pollution can contribute to negative health effects ranging from increased respiratory symptoms to hospitalizations and premature deaths. According to health researchers, children, the elderly and people with a pre-existing cardiac or respiratory illness are most at risk. As the air quality deteriorates, consider reducing, rescheduling, or avoiding strenuous outdoor activities, especially if you are experiencing symptoms such as coughing or throat irritation.

Residents are requested to reduce emissions to the atmosphere by minimizing the use of their automobiles and curtailing other activities which may lead to excess air emissions. For current air quality conditions, go to BC Air Quality.

Reducing the risk of interface fires

Person-caused interface fires are always preventable. Person-caused interface fires are those related to carelessly discarded cigarettes, brush fires, construction, recreation, and arson. The risk of wildfires goes up when the temperature increases, so follow the tips below to minimize your chance of starting an interface fire this summer.

  • Campfires may be banned. Please check BC Wild Fire Status or BC Parks Fire Restrictions for more information.
  • Do not discard smoking materials from vehicles - use interior ashtrays
  • Lawn equipment should have properly working spark arresters to prevent sparks from exiting through the exhaust pipes

Stay informed

There are many ways to stay informed during an extreme heat event, such as:

Weather Conditions Links
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