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If you can’t stand the heat: Tips to stay cool in B.C.’s first heat wave of the summer

Temperatures expected to top 30 C this weekend in many parts of B.C.
People sit and lie in the sun at Kitsilano Beach Park as temperatures reached highs into 20s in Vancouver on Saturday, May 9, 2020,. (Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck).

Many parts of B.C. can expect daytime temperatures exceeding 30 C this weekend, according to a special weather statement from Environment Canada.

And while that doesn’t approach the blistering temperatures reached one year ago during the record-breaking heat dome, some precautions are still advised.

“We’re not reaching the temperatures where there would be a heat warning. Having said that, warmer temperatures do come with some risk,” B.C. Centre For Disease Control scientific director for environment health services Sarah Henderson said.

These temperatures will be riskier for certain people, so this weekend is a good time to check with friends and family who live alone. Seniors and people with any ongoing health condition including mental illnesses are at a higher risk of overheating, said Henderson, who is also an associate professor at the University of British Columbia,.

Additionally, people who are engaging in substance use or are on certain prescribed medications are also at a higher risk. If you don’t know if your medication is affecting your heat tolerance, you can ask a pharmacist.

Additionally, temperatures above 30 C make people feel tired during the day, UBC Nursing School Professor Emeritus Wendy Hall said. People who are exposed to heat for long periods should pay attention for the warning signs of overheating.

“Symptoms can include things like your skin tingling, headaches and nausea. That is when you really want to try and cool yourself down because if you lose too much water or salt from your body you can end up with heat exhaustion, where you feel faint and weak and you have muscle cramps,” Hall said.

Another warning sign is if you begin feeling very sweaty and flushed, Henderson said.

The experts’ tips on what to do if your body is giving you any of these signals to cool down:

  • Drink water, even if you are not thirsty.
  • Get your socks wet and put them in the fridge or freezer.
  • Take a cool shower.
  • Seek out an air-conditioned space to take a break, like a library or a grocery store.

Heat can also affect glucose resistance, meaning people prone to low-blood sugar should plan to prevent overheating, Hall said. During the day, they can avoid letting heat into their homes by drawing curtains or blinds while closing windows on the sun-facing side of their home. British Columbians should open their windows at night with a fan going, if possible.

Hall also has tips to avoid heat related sleep disturbances, because heat paired with lack sleep can lower immune responses.

Most importantly, people should avoid straying much from their daily routine. Hotter daytime temperatures make people feel sleepy during the day, but it is better to let that tiredness build up for quality sleep at night, Hall said.

Keeping hydrated during the daytime also helps to avoid drinking lots of water right before bed, which can cause a person to wake in the middle of the night. Avoiding alcohol, sugary soda and caffeine is best for hydration and regular sleep, Hall said.

More out-of-the-box strategies for cooler bedtimes like spraying bed-sheets with water may not work well this weekend. People could wake up cold because cooler nights are expected. Keeping an extra blanket at the foot of the bed could help people fall asleep while it is hot, without having to get up if they become cold, Hall said.

The heat is expected across the southwestern corner of B.C., including the North Shore, central Vancouver, Maple Ridge and Delta. Meanwhile, the Interior is also expected to be hit with higher-than-average temperatures from the upper 20s to the low-mid 30s. The overnight lows will be in the mid-teens.

“These are what I describe as warm summer temperatures, but temperatures that are within the realm of normal in British Columbia,” Henderson said.

After last summer’s record-breaking heat, it is important to stay calm when the weather gets warm, Hall said.

Warmer weekends are a good opportunity to make a plan in the case of extreme heat, Henderson added. Even if B.C does not have an extreme heat-wave this year, having a routine will make us better prepared for upcoming years, she said.

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About the Author: Morgana Adby, Local Journalism Initiative

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