Summer months in Alberta mean more outdoor activities especially after the long winter months! Summer is no time to get careless with safety, we are more active and spend more time in the sun where there are specific hazards that we need to be aware of.
Who is most at risk?
Although most Albertans can’t wait for the warm days of August, too much sun can cause severe health problems. A few hours in high temperatures can cause dehydration, heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Those particularly vulnerable to the heat are the elderly, young children and those who work and/or exercise outdoors. People with underlying problems such as heart disease, asthma or chronic bronchitis, or those on certain medications may also be at higher risk. Pharmacist or Doctor should be consulted for possible side effects during extreme heat. Daily Caring provides 10 practical tips to keep seniors cool in hot weather.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke
Among the most worrisome conditions from prolonged heat exposure are heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Heat exhaustion is a heat-related illness that can occur after you’ve been exposed to high temperatures, and it often is accompanied by dehydration. Signs of heat exhaustion may include feeling thirsty, dizzy, weak or nauseated.
Prevent heat exhaustion by wearing lightweight and light coloured clothing. Where a wide-brimmed hat, use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids and avoid caffeine and alcohol. If you suspect heat exhaustion rehydrate asap, move to a cooler location and stop physical activity.
Heat stroke is the most serious type of heat illness. People with heat stroke will often appear dehydrated or dry from losing sweat and their mental status may be abnormal. Heat stroke is a medical emergency that can cause seizures, loss of consciousness and even death.
Heat stroke requires immediate first aid and medical attention. If you suspect heat stroke call 911 immediately. Move to a cooler location, apply cold, wet cloths or ice to head, face, neck, armpits, and groin and stay with the person until help arrives.
CCOHS has information on Hot environments and the health effects and first aid. OHS Canada article; Preventing heat stress has information on steps for employers and workers.
The best way to protect your skin from sunburn is to avoid the sun! But who wants to do that?
Tips to avoid getting sunburnt:
- Stay out of the midday sun (from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM), if not find shade if you need to be outdoors.
- Wear clothing such as wide brim hats, sunglasses with UV ray protection, loose-fitting clothing
- Use sunscreen that has a SPF of at least 30 or higher and apply 20 – 30 min before going in the sun. Remember to apply sunscreen every 2 to 3 hours while in the sun and after swimming or sweating a lot.
For more information Health Link BC provides what sunburns are, the long-term problems and preventative measures to avoid sunburn. Be sure to enjoy the sun, but stay safe!
Albertans are not the only ones who get active in the summer. There are also some creepy crawlies out there that can cause serious illnesses for us. Two of these pests are mosquitoes and ticks.
Mosquitoes and West Nile
Mosquitoes are a bother, but did you know they can also transmit viruses like West Nile to humans & other animals? Here are some tips on how to protect yourself:
- Wear long-sleeved tops and long pants when outside.
- Make sure door/window screens fit tightly & free of holes.
- Minimize your time outdoors at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
- Use an insect repellent containing DEET; for children, the insect repellent should contain no more than 10 per cent DEET; for adults, no more than 30 per cent DEET.
- Empty any standing water around the property.
- Clean eavestroughs of debris regularly so water does not accumulate.
Symptoms/signs of West Nile virus
Symptoms/signs can include fever, headache, body aches, skin rash and swollen lymph nodes. Severe symptoms may include stiff neck, sleepiness, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, and paralysis.
For more information checkout My Health Alberta.
Ticks and Lyme Disease
Ticks can spread many illnesses including Lyme Disease, My Health Alberta provides information on Lyme disease and ticks in Alberta including the symptoms and treatment.
Quick tips to avoid ticks:
- Avoid areas where ticks may be more common, such as high grasses, leaf piles, and bushy areas.
- Dress in long pants tucked into socks, long-sleeved shirts, and hats.
- Use insect repellent.
What to do if you’ve found a tick?
Use fine-tipped tweezers, grasp it as close as possible to where it’s attached on your skin and pull it straight out. Then clean the area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.