Take Extra Care to Check on Elders, Children and Neighbours During Hot Weather



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:

  • Elders aged 65 years of age or older, or who live alone;
  • infants and young children;
  • older children and adults who may have difficulty communicating their needs;
  • people working or exercising outside or in a hot environment;
  • people who are under-housed;
  • people whose judgement may be impaired.

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

  1. Plan outdoor activity before 11 a.m. or after 4 p.m
  2. Avoid physical work or exercise outside in the heat of the day. 
  3. Keep your curtains and blinds closed during the day.
  4. Avoid using indoor appliances that generate heat, such as the oven, dryer or dishwasher.
  5. Drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids. Water is the best choice. 
  6. If you must work or exercise outside, drink two to four cups of water each hour, even before you feel thirsty. Rest breaks are important and should be taken in the shade. 
  7. Wear lightweight, light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing, a wide brimmed hat, and/or an umbrella. 
  8. Take a cool bath or shower.
  9. In an extreme heat warning, check the website or social media page of your Nation, community or municipality to find a cooling centre, or find the nearest air-conditioned building.
  10. Never leave children or pets alone in a parked car. Temperatures can rise to 52° C (125° F) within 20 minutes inside a vehicle when the outside temperature is 34° C (93° F). Leaving the car windows open will not keep the inside of the vehicle at a safe temperature. 
  11. Make sure Elders, very young children and others at risk are keeping cool and drinking plenty of fluids.

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:

  • pale, cool, moist skin
  • heavy sweating
  • muscle cramps
  • rash
  • swelling, especially hands and feet
  • headache
  • fatigue and weakness
  • light headedness, confusion and/or fainting
  • nausea and/or vomiting

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. 

Additional Resources 

FNHA Wildfire Response Resources 

Preparing for Dangerous Heat (BCCDC)​​

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