Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) has issued a Heat Warning for Aug. 17-18 for the following areas within the Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) and Fraser Health (FH) regions:
- Howe Sound
- Metro Vancouver
- Fraser Valley - central including Chilliwack
- Fraser Valley - east including Hope
- Fraser Valley - west including Abbotsford
- Fraser Canyon
A strong ridge of high pressure will bring a short-lived heat wave to British Columbia, with daytime high temperatures of 29 to 35 degrees Celsius inland, near 27 degrees Celsius near the water, and early morning low temperatures of 16 to 18 degrees Celsius – narrowly reaching heat warning criteria. Temperatures are expected to moderate on Friday. Please note this is now the fourth heat event of the year and populations are now more acclimated to hot weather, in addition temperatures within the region may vary significantly. Find further details here: Latest Heat Warning: Weather Alert.
Given the brief expected duration of this heat event, negative health effects are expected to occur primarily in people at high risk for heat illness, with fewer health impacts to the general public. For those who are vulnerable, high indoor temperatures pose the most risk to health.
Medical Health Officers at Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health encourage the public to check on people with known vulnerabilities to heat illness:
- seniors aged 65 years or older
- people who live alone
- people with pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or respiratory disease
- people with mental illness such as schizophrenia, depression, or anxiety
- people with substance use disorders
- people who are marginally housed
- people who are pregnant
- infants and young children
- people with limited mobility or other disabilities
The BC Centre of Disease Control provides a broad range of heat-related guidance on its website, including information on the different types of heat alerts, how to prepare for hot temperatures, symptoms of heat-related illnesses, those most at risk during hot weather and ways to stay cool. For heat safety information specific to these regions, please visit vch.ca/heat and fraserhealth.ca/sunsafety.
Preparing for and responding to hot weather:
- If you have air conditioning at home, make sure it is in good working order.
- If you do not have air conditioning at home:
- Find somewhere you can cool off on hot days. Consider places in your community to spend time indoors such as libraries, community centres, movie theatres or malls. Also, as temperatures may be hotter inside than outside, consider outdoor spaces with lots of shade and running water.
- Shut windows and close curtains and blinds during the heat of the day to block the sun and prevent hotter outdoor air from coming inside. Open doors and windows when it is cooler outside to move that cooler air indoors.
- Ensure that you have a working fan, but do not rely on fans as your primary means of cooling. Fans can be used to draw cooler late-evening, overnight and early-morning air indoors. Keep track of temperatures in your home using a thermostat or thermometer. Sustained indoor temperatures over 31 C can be dangerous for people who are susceptible to heat.
- If your home gets very hot, consider staying with a friend or relative who has air conditioning if possible.
- Identify people who may be at high risk for heat-related illness. If possible, help them prepare for heat and plan to check in on them.
- Drink plenty of water and other liquids to stay hydrated, even if you are not thirsty.
- Spray your body with water, wear a damp shirt, take a cool shower or bath or sit with part of your body in water to cool down.
- Take it easy, especially during the hottest hours of the day.
- Stay in the shade and use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or more.
- Take immediate action to cool down if you are overheating. Signs of overheating include feeling unwell, headache and dizziness. Overheating can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
- Signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, severe headache, muscle cramps, extreme thirst and dark urine. If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should seek a cooler environment, drink plenty of water, rest and use water to cool your body.
- Signs of heat stroke include loss of consciousness, disorientation, confusion, severe nausea or vomiting and very dark urine or no urine. Heat stroke is a medical emergency.
- In the event of a medical emergency, call 911. However, it is important to use 911 responsibly to avoid overwhelming the system.
When to call 911:
- In cases of heat stroke: loss of consciousness, disorientation, confusion, severe nausea or vomiting or very dark urine or no urine.
- In general: when there is chest pain, difficulty breathing, loss of consciousness, severe burns, choking, convulsions that are not stopping, a drowning, a severe allergic reaction, a head injury, signs of a stroke or a major trauma.
If you have a less urgent health issue:
- You can call HealthLinkBC at 811 and speak with a nurse or go to an urgent care centre or clinic if you can do so safely. That way, our emergency medical dispatch staff and paramedics will be available for people who need their services the most.
- There are also online tools at healthlinkbc.ca, including a “Check Your Symptoms” tool.
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