In a recent interview, BC's chief coroner confirmed that 570 people tragically lost their lives as a result of June's heat dome. As Nations and communities endure another hot summer in BC, we wanted to remind people of the importance of looking out for community members who are more vulnerable to heat-related illness.
At temperatures above 30° C (86°F), fans alone may not be able to prevent heat-related illness. Please support family members, neighbours and others in the community to avoid becoming overheated and take extra care to regularly check them for heat-related illness.
Anyone can suffer from heat-related illness, but some people are at greater risk, especially:
Some medical conditions may also increase risk, such as uncontrolled diabetes or blood pressure, overweight, kidney failure, heart failure, or on medications such as water pills and certain psychiatric medications.
Tips to protect yourself and others during a heat wave
What if it's smoky outside?
Closing doors and windows can be dangerous on hot days if you do not have air conditioning. For most people, heat stress is a bigger health risk than smoky air. For those with respiratory conditions such as asthma, this may not be the case. Be aware of your body temperature, use common sense, and seek cooling stations or medical attention sooner rather than later.
What about the risk of COVID-19?
During a heat warning, the risk of severe illness from heat can be greater than the risk of covid-19. The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) recommends maintaining a two-metre distance from others as much as possible. However, during heat events, cooling centres cannot turn people away due to concerns about overcrowding or physical distancing. A mask is recommended in some areas of the province, but if you start to feel hot or can't breathe, it is okay to pull your mask down to catch your breath.
What are the symptoms of heat-related illness? The symptoms of heat-related illness can range from mild to severe. They include:
If you see someone with signs of heat-related illness, get them to a cool place immediately or apply cold water to their face and neck and call 8-1-1 for advice. If symptoms keep getting worse or a person is losing consciousness, call 9-1-1 or your nearest emergency services for help.
Planning Ahead for a Heat Wave
FNHA Environmental Public Health Services can advise communities about setting up cooling stations, and may be able to offset the rental or purchase of air conditioning units or fans for Elders or others vulnerable to heat effects. (August 6 update: the FNHA is no longer accepting new requests for reimbursement for air conditioning units.)
The FNHA may be able to provide air purifier supports to communities with members who are especially vulnerable to the health effects of wildfire smoke.
FNHA Wildfire Response Resources
Preparing for Dangerous Heat (BCCDC)