Overheating can be a sneaky thing, says an official with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.
Sarah Henderson, environmental health scientific director, said people might not notice that they’re overheating, which especially puts people who are living alone at a higher risk.
B.C. is set to see a heat wave begin this weekend and carry into next week. The province gave the heads up Thursday (Aug. 10). The province issued the warning about the upcoming heat event as part of an update about the latest drought and wildfire conditions.
Henderson said those most at risk include older adults, people with substance-use disorder, anyone with chronic conditions, kidney disease, COPD, heart failure, and people with certain mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia. Some people may also be on medications that affect the body’s ability to thermal regulate, such as medications more often prescribed for conditions like schizophrenia and severe depression.
She highly recommends that if people who take medication regularly are unsure of the possible side effects to consult with a pharmacist.
The body is always trying to maintain 36.6 C, so if the core temperature starts to creep up that’s the first sign you’re overheating.
“What you might notice is that your heart is beating faster than it normally does, you’re breathing faster than you normally do, you feel a headache and you’re starting to sweat quite heavily.”
Those are some of the first signs your body isn’t coping with the heat, and Henderson urges people to pay attention.
If you don’t cool down, it could progress from heat-related illness or exhaustion into the dangerous territory of heat stroke, which includes symptoms such as dizziness, fainting, not thinking clearly, nauseau and you might stop sweating.
“Those are the signs that you are dangerously overheated and need immediate medical attention.”
Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma said the heat wave is expected to start this weekend over Vancouver Island and the southwest with higher-than-normal temperatures, then move over the Interior through the week. Ma said the temperatures may trigger heat warnings, adding that it could poses risks to some individuals.
“It is not expected to be as extreme as the event we experienced in June and July of 2021,” she said.
Ma noted that days are shorter and nights are longer in August than in June, which allows for temperatures to drop overnight. She added B.C. has learned a lot from the 2021 heat dome, the most significant lesson being that heat-related deaths can happen in Canada.
“Two to three years ago, extreme heat wasn’t exactly seen as a hazard that Canadians could be subjected to,” she said.
Henderson added that one of the best things people can do is stay in the coolest environment possible, like a basement or public places such as community centres, libraries or malls.
“The room doesn’t have to be down at 20 C or anything, usually room temperatures of 26 C or less are generally safe for everyone,” she explained about using air conditioners.