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Heat and Humidity risks

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Monday, July 22, 2013, 1:15 PM - As the summer wears on, precautions need to be taken to stay safe from the heat and humidity.

Health risks
One of the most common health risks associated with heat and humidity is heatstroke, or sunstroke.

Symptoms of heatstroke can include:
•    light headedness
•    fainting
•    nausea
•    breathing problems
•    headaches
•    brain damage

Both high and low humidity days can have negative health effects.

High humidity days, where the air is filled with moisture, can leave people covered in sweat. Because of the humid air, sweat cannot evaporate as quickly and stays on skin longer as the body struggles to remove heat that essentially has nowhere to go.

On days with lower humidity, the air is very dry and the body repurposes the water inside of it to add moisture to its air intake, acting as its own humidifier. This constant need to generate moisture leads to a lack of water, as the body begins to get dehydrated faster.

Using the Humidex
The Humidex is a Canadian innovation used to more accurately describe how hot and humid weather feels by combining the temperature and humidity. It’s a great tool to use, especially in the summer, and the Humidex map for Canada this week can be found here. Included below is a legend from Environment Canada, indicating the comfort level many may experience in hot weather.

Humidex
Degree of Comfort
20-29
No discomfort
30-39    
Some discomfort
40-45
Great discomfort; avoid exertion
46 and over
Dangerous; possible heat stroke

Keys to staying cool and protected this summer
It’s extremely important to continuously be drinking water and other fluids during hot and humid days this summer to not get dehydrated and to avoid heatstroke. Water plays a vital role in helping your body regulate its temperature. If you begin drinking water after you feel thirsty, this is a sign that you are already dehydrated.

Foods and drinks high in electrolytes like potassium, calcium, and sodium can help with hydration because of their water retention properties. These electrolytes can be found in sports drinks, bananas, milk, and greens, just to name a few. 

How to care for someone suffering from heatstroke?
Courtesy of WebMD

If you suspect that someone has a heat stroke, immediately call 911 or transport the person to a hospital. Any delay seeking medical help can be fatal.

While waiting for the paramedics to arrive, initiate first aid. Move the person to an air-conditioned environment – or at least a cool, shady area – and remove any unnecessary clothing.

If possible, take the person's core body temperature and initiate first aid to cool it to 101 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit [38.33 to 38.88 degrees Celsius]. If no thermometers are available, don't hesitate to initiate first aid.

You may also try these cooling strategies:
•    Fan air over the patient while wetting his or her skin with water from a sponge or garden hose.
•    Apply ice packs to the patient's armpits, groin, neck, and back. Because these areas are rich with blood vessels close to the skin, cooling them may reduce body temperature.
•    Immerse the patient in a shower or tub of cool water, or an ice bath.

If emergency response is delayed, call the hospital emergency room for additional instructions.

After you've recovered from heat stroke, you'll probably be more sensitive to high temperatures during the following week. So it's best to avoid hot weather and heavy exercise until your doctor tells you that it's safe to resume your normal activities.

With the heat and humidity, stay safe and comfortable this summer by properly fuelling your body with the right food and amount of water, and if it gets too hot, stay in the shade or indoors if at all possible.


Humidex vs. Heat Index: What's the difference?

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