Whether you’re enjoying a barbecue with family and friends, getting active or attending one of our province’s many summer festivals, summer in Manitoba is hard to beat. We’re one of the sunniest provinces in Canada, so there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors under clear, blue skies.
I hope your summer is filled with exciting outdoor fun, but while you’re enjoying the many summer festivities that Manitoba offers, please take care to protect yourself from heat and sun exposure.
Though our bodies try to keep a consistent temperature, they can become overworked when we’re exposed to sun and hot temperatures for too long. Prolonged heat and sun exposure can lead to sunburn, dehydration, exhaustion, heat stroke (sun stroke) or in extreme cases, even death. If you’re over the age of 65, health risks can be greater for heat-related illnesses. Fortunately, most heat-related illnesses can be prevented by being aware of the risks and symptoms of heat exposure and by taking action to protect yourself.
As we age, our bodies do not adjust and respond as well to sudden changes in temperature. Chronic medical conditions can affect how the body responds to heat. The use of prescription medications can also impair the body’s ability to regulate its temperature.
Hot temperatures can be especially dangerous for older adults when dealing with medical conditions such as heart problems, high blood pressure, breathing difficulties, kidney problems, mental illness, dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
Here are some simple ways to avoid heat-related stress:
- Drink plenty of cool, non-alcoholic beverages.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist if the medications you are taking will affect your ability to cope with heat.
- Wear loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing, made from a breathable fabric, and a wide-brimmed hat.
- Pay attention to local weather forecasts and plan your outings and outdoor activities during cooler parts of the day.
- Wear sunscreen to prevent painful sunburn, and limit your exposure to damaging ultra-violet rays. Your sunscreen should have an SPF of at least 30. This will block 97 per cent of the sun’s damaging UVB rays. The higher the SPF, the better.
In addition to keeping yourself cool, take these steps to keep your home cool:
- Close your windows, blinds and curtains during the hottest part of the day.
- Use air conditioning or fans to cool and circulate the air where possible.
- On hot days, eat meals that don’t require the use of the oven.
If you don’t have air conditioning and your home gets too hot, go to an air-conditioned public place to cool down. Your local public library or shopping centre are great options.
To stay healthy and safe, be sure to watch for symptoms of heat illness, which include dizziness, headaches, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, rapid breathing or heartbeat and decreased urination. Heat illness can be very serious, and in some cases, requires medical attention. It is important to watch for signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. If you or someone you know experiences signs of heat illness, call Health Links-Info Santé at 204-788-8200 in Winnipeg or toll free 1-888-315-9257 elsewhere in Manitoba. In an emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency department.
For more information on heat and your health, visit http://www.gov.mb.ca/health/public
health/environmentalhealth/heat.html, or call the Seniors Information Line at 204-945-6565 in Winnipeg. Toll-free 1-800-665-6565. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great summer!
Hon. Kelvin Goertzen is the MLA for Steinbach and the Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living.