Public health advisory / Tips for preventing heat-related illness (09/07/29)

NB 1055

July 29, 2009

FREDERICTON (CNB) - New Brunswickers are being reminded to take precautions to prevent heat-related illnesses.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Van Buynder said that any person can be at risk if exposed to excessive heat. There is an increased risk of heat illness when Environment Canada issues an advisory that the humidex is at the mid-to-high 30s, or there is a succession of several hot days.

Those most at high risk include infants and young children, the elderly, people who are overweight, and those with chronic medical conditions, especially cardiac diseases and high blood pressure. People on certain medications that impair the body's ability to regulate heat or perspiration, especially people with mental health conditions, are also at high risk. However, even young and healthy individuals can be affected by heat if they engage in behaviours that put them at risk, such as taking part in strenuous physical activities in hot weather.

"Symptoms of heat illness include muscle cramps, fatigue, headache, and nausea," said Van Buynder. "Persons showing signs of heat-related illness should be moved to a cool, preferably air-conditioned environment, receive cool, non-alcoholic beverages, and rest.

"If symptoms worsen or are severe, seek immediate medical attention, since what may start as more mild forms of heat illness may in fact progress to heat stroke, which is a life-threatening situation."

Recommendations to prevent heat illness include:

Persons who live alone, have difficulty in caring for themselves, or who are immobile and unable to relocate to a cooler environment are also at high risk for heat illness. It's important to check on relatives, friends and neighbours at risk to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat. Where possible, take them to an air-conditioned location for even for a few hours. Such a simple act may save a life in hot weather, especially when humidity is high.

People who engage in vigorous physical activity when temperatures and humidex readings are high are also at risk of heat illness, particularly if inadequate or insufficient fluids are consumed, and rest periods in the shade or cool areas are not taken. Even healthy athletes have been known to suffer heat illness.

Sunburn can impair the body's ability to regulate temperature. Therefore, to avoid sunburn, use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, wear light-coloured clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, and avoid exposure to direct sunlight.

By following these recommendations, New Brunswickers will be able to enjoy the summer in a safe and healthy manner.


MEDIA CONTACT: Meghan Cumby, communications, Department of Health, 506-457-3522.