Unusually high temperatures may cause health issues today and possibly Wednesday for people and pets throughout a large area of Central Alberta, including parts of Red Deer, Lacombe, Ponoka and Stettler Counties.
Environment Canada issued a warning on Monday, stating that people within those areas should take extra precautions to avoid heat stroke and other health complications that may arise as temperatures rise past 30C.
Those most at risk include older adults, infants and children, people with breathing or heart conditions, people taking medication for psychiatric illnesses, those who work or exercise in the heat, homeless people and people who do not have access to air conditioning.
Red Deer physician Deena Hinshaw, Medical Officer of Health for the Alberta Health Services Central Zone, said people at risk or those responsible for their care should take extra precautions, including staying in the shade and drinking plenty of water.
Central Alberta does not have a history of heat-related illness or fatalities, Hinshaw said on Monday. However, she cautions people to be aware that higher temperatures bring a risk of heat stroke and may worsen pre-existing health conditions, she said.
People being treated for psychiatric illness may be at risk because some of the drugs prescribed to them will reduce their ability to sweat, said Hinshaw.
Heat stroke occurs when the body’s defence mechanisms become overwhelmed and are no longer able to regulate temperature. Signs including feeling faint or light-headed, dizziness, nausea and loss of the ability to sweat. Medical attention should be called for anyone showing those signs, especially if that person has stopped sweating. The person should be laid down in a cool area, outerwear should be removed and damp towels can be used to aid the cooling process while waiting for help to arrive.
While most homes in Central Alberta do not have central air conditioning, it is generally possible to cool them down by leaving windows open at night. However, that may not work if temperatures remain high. Hinshaw suggested that people who are unable to sufficiently cool the interiors of their homes spend the hotter parts of the day in a public place that has air conditioning.