BC Lung Foundation offers ways to mitigate the severe health risk associated with extreme heat events such as the “heat dome” experience of June 2021. The tragic aftermath of the five-day heat dome: nearly 600 deaths, due to never-seen-before, sustained high temperatures and resulting poor air quality.
According to the recently-released BC Coroners Service report, 98% of those deaths occurred, surprisingly, indoors in a residence.
Heat-related illnesses may start to occur even at the relatively mild indoor temperature of 26o C (78o F). Outdoor temperature peaks in the afternoon, while indoor temperature peaks in the evening.
Who’s at risk?
- Older adults, especially those 60 and older
- People with schizophrenia, dementia, depression, anxiety disorder
- People who live alone
- People with pre-existing health conditions
- People with limited mobility
- People who live in low-cost housing or marginalized housing
- Pregnant women
- Infants and young children
Physical Environmental Risk Factors:
- Dwellings with no mechanical cooling system, such as air conditioning or a heat pump
- Higher floors of buildings
- West- or south-facing windows
- Large-sized windows
- Windows without shades or coverings
- Areas of the dwelling without a cross-breeze
- In the neighborhood: a lack of trees and/or green spaces
Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion:
- Heavy sweating
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid breathing and heartbeat
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Muscle cramps
- Excessive thirst
- New skin rash
- Dark urine and/or decreased urination
- Body temperature of 38oC (100.4oF)
In these situations, move the person to cooler spaces (libraries, public spaces, recreation centers or community centers), take a cool shower or apply cold water to your skin.
Signs and Symptoms of Heat Stroke
- Body temperature over 38oC
- Lack of coordination
- Very hot and red skin
Heat Stroke is a medical emergency: call 911. While waiting for paramedics to arrive, if you have someone with you, move the patient to a cooler space, or apply cold water to large areas of the skin.
To be prepared for high-heat events, here’s what you can do:
- Use an air conditioning unit – during a wildfire smoke event, set your air conditioning unit in a re-circulate (not intake) mode
- Fans are far less effective: when pointed directly at a person, it only gives the perception of cooling; they aren’t designed to be a direct cooling mechanism at high temperature
- Have a thermometer at hand, to monitor your body temperature
- Wear hats or extra-light clothing during hot days
- Cold wet towels can be applied to the skin to lower body temperature
- Do not open any window coverings such as blinds. You can also use cardboard or dark fabric in your windows; foil is effective, too – with the foil facing outside to reflect the sun.
- Stay hydrated – increase your daily intake of cool/cold water
Join us July 20, 2022 at 10am to listen to Meghan Straight, Coordinator and Analyst from Vancouver Coastal Health’s Healthy Environments team, on the best ways to cope with high heat and poor air quality.
Meghan Straight is a Project Coordinator and Analyst with Vancouver Coastal Health’s Healthy Environments team, working on the development of extreme heat resources and training. She holds a BA from UVic and recently joined VCH, after working for more than a decade in Recreation and Community Services.
View Meghan's slides here.
View a recording of the webinar here.