Baby boy with sunscreen

Tips to staying safe in the sun and beat the heat.

Extreme heat and your health

Our health region has moderate temperatures. However, as the climate warms in the summer, extreme heat can cause health impacts, particularly early in the season, resulting in heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke, worsening pre-existing health conditions. In extreme situations, this can lead to permanent disability or death. 

Watch for the symptoms of heat illness: 

  • Dizziness/fainting
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Rapid breathing and heartbeat
  • Extreme thirst
  • Decreased urination with unusually dark urine
  • Confusion or changes in behavior
  • High body temperature
  • Lack of coordination 

If you think someone might have heat stroke, call 9-1-1.

Some individuals are at higher risk for heat-related illness, including:

  • Older adults.
  • Infants and young children.
  • People with chronic illnesses, including those who have cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, renal disease or psychiatric illness.
  • People who are physically impaired, including those who are confined to bed, need assistance with daily living or who have sensory/cognitive impairment.
  • People taking certain medications, including high blood pressure medicines, antidepressants, antipsychotics or anti-Parkinson’s agents.
  • People who are socially disadvantaged due to low income, being homeless or living alone.
  • Newcomers to Canada.
  • Occupational groups who work out-doors or who have increased physical strain.
  • People who are physically active with increased physical strain with a reduced perception of risk.

*If you are taking medication, particularly for mental illness, heart disease or Alzheimer’s disease, ask your doctor or pharmacist whether it increases your health risk in the heat and follow their recommendations. 

Tips for everyone:

  • Drink plenty of water even before you feel thirsty and stay in a cool place.
  • Make your home as comfortable as possible:
    • Close blinds and shutters during the daytime and open them at night. If it’s safe to do so, open your windows at night to let in cooler air. If you have children in your home, make sure you’ve taken precautions to prevent falls from windows and balconies.
    • Air conditioning can help keep rooms cool. Do not over-cool and remember that circulation of fresh air is important to reduce the risk of  COVID-19.
    • If you do not have air-conditioning, take shelter in the coolest room in your home and use a fan. Blowing a fan across a pan of ice water can create a cool breeze.
    • Cool showers and misting yourself and your clothing with cool water will help keep you from overheating.
  • Check on older family, friends and neighbours to inquire if they are cool and drinking water.
  • Schedule outdoor activities only during the coolest time of the day avoiding 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. when temperatures are at their highest.
    • If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of non-alcoholic fluids each hour. Limit outdoor activity during the day to early morning and evening.
  • Never leave people or pets inside a parked vehicle during warm weather.
  • Ask a health professional how medications or health conditions can affect your risk in the heat.
  • Seek a cool place such as a tree-shaded area, swimming pool, shower/bath, or air-conditioned spot like a public building, but be mindful to avoid crowded spaces and maintain a 2-metre distance from others.

Check on others:

  • People living alone are at high risk of severe heat related illness. Check in regularly for signs of heat-related illness amongst those who live alone, particularly older people, those with mental illness or those who are unable to leave their homes that do not have air conditioners.
  • Call your local municipality or check their website to see where there are air conditioned cooling centres for those who need them. If these are available be mindful of physical distancing rules during COVID-19.
  • Ask whether people know how to prevent heat-related illness and are taking precautions.
  • If someone seems unwell due to extreme heat, move them to a cool shady spot, help them get hydrated and call for medical assistance if required.

Tips to avoid sunburns 

  • When possible, schedule outdoor activities in the morning or late afternoon/early evening.
  • Stay in the shade and out of the hot sun between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Look for places with lots of shade, such as a park with big trees. Take an umbrella or tent to the beach.
  • Cover up. If you are out in the sun during mid-day hours, wear long sleeves, loose-fitting long pants and a hat with a wide brim (baseball caps do not provide enough protection).
  • Wear sunglasses that provide UVA and UVB protection. They will provide protection against eye damage.
  • Use a sunscreen lotion or cream that is Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 15 or more. If you work outdoors or are planning to be outside most of the day, use one with SPF 30 or more.
  • Put sunscreen on your skin 20 minutes before you go out and reapply 20 minutes after being out in the sun to ensure even application and better protection.
  • Use sunscreen even on hazy or overcast days.
  • DO NOT apply sunscreen to babies under six months old. Babies should be kept out of the direct sun as much as possible.
  • NEVER use baby oil to protect children from the sun. It will NOT protect them.
  • Sunscreen can’t block all the sun’s rays. Use it along with shade, clothing and hats, not instead of them.
  • Don't forget your lips, ears and nose and the tops of your feet. These parts of your body burn easily.
  • Re-apply sunscreen after you go swimming or if you are sweating.

Resources:

Resources to protect vulnerable individuals from extreme heat: