Avoiding heat related illness

The mercury is soaring and the humidex is making the temperature of 35C feel like 40C!

What can we do to cool down and avoid heat related illnesses such as dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke?

Dehydration occurs when the body does not have enough fluids due to lack of intake or excess loss through excessive sweating.

Heat exhaustion is also called heat prostration. The symptoms include faintness, rapid pulse, nausea, profuse sweating, cool skin, and collapse. It is caused by prolonged exposure to heat accompanied by loss of adequate fluid and salt in the body mainly through excessive sweating.

Heat stroke occurs when there is a disruption in temperature regulating mechanisms of the body caused by overexposure to excessive heat. Symptoms are more severe than in heat exhaustion and include fever, hot and dry skin, and rapid pulse. Occasionally this leads to delirium and coma.

The best defense is prevention!

Stay hydrated: Don’t wait until you are thirsty. No matter how inactive you are be sure to drink fluids such as water, fruit juice or sports drinks to stay properly hydrated. Avoid alcoholic beverages which dehydrate you. Although very cold drinks are tempting they may cause stomach cramping.

Avoid the sun: Minimize activities outdoors to the early morning or late evening hours. Stay in the shade if outdoors as much as possible. Stay indoors during the heat of the day, preferably in an air conditioned building.

Cool down: For those without air conditioning make a trip to your local shopping mall or library. Spending a few hours in an air conditioned building helps lower your body temperature.

Use a fan. A fan provides some comfort but if temperatures exceed 30C a fan alone will not cool you properly. Use a washcloth to moisten your forehead and back then sit in front of the fan. You body temperature will lower as the water evaporates. Try placing a bowl of ice in front of the fan to blow cooler air on yourself. Better yet take a cool shower or bath to keep cool.

Wear light weight (preferably cotton), light colour, loose fitting clothing.

NEVER leave anyone in a closed parked, vehicle including pets. When it is 30C outside the temperature inside a car with the window slightly open can soar to 45C within 10 minutes. In 30 minutes temperatures reach 50C.

Although any one can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. Check regularly on:

  • Infants and young children
  • People aged 65 or older
  • People who have a mental illness
  • Those who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure
  • Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children, of course, need much more frequent watching.

    Enjoy the hot weather!

    The Unrecognized Threat

    The numbers are abysmal!

    Statistics Canada recently released a report that shows how little Canadians are exercising. Only 15 per cent of adult Canadians are moderately active. “Moderately active” is defined as getting a recommended 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week. This categorizes 85% of us as inactive, getting the equivalent of less than a half-hour of walking each day.

    Those getting the least exercise are, in fact, our children. Only 7% of Canadians between the ages of 5 and 17 are moderately active. Whatever happened to going outside to play? It has been replaced in large part by video games, social media websites and television. Children should have at least 60 minutes of activity each day.

    Being sedentary is becoming a major activity. Canadians say they sit most of the day at work, and then once again when they get home. The statics report that adults spend an average of 9.5 hours a day in sedentary pursuits, the equivalent of about 69 per cent of their waking hours. We get so caught up in our busy lives we do not recognize our inactivity. This is not a healthy trend. Inactivity leads to weaker muscles and increased body fat percentage which in turn leads to chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, some types of cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, depression, stress and anxiety.

    Exercising at the gym is great but many people say they cannot afford the cost or commit the time. There are other ways to get exercise other than hitting the gym. Exercise means getting up and moving. When it is fun you hardly notice you are exercising at all. Even the little things count. Try these activities for fun sources of exercise:

    • Play catch, Frisbee or a game of tag
    • Walk to the store and school (or work)
    • Walk the dog
    • Ride your bike
    • Garden, mow the lawn
    • Go bowling
    • Chase the dog around in the back yard
    • Go for a hike or bike ride or even better on a hilly forest path
    • Take the stairs
    • Join a dance class
    • Go swimming
    • Try rock climbing
    • Go for a walk after dinner to watch the sun set
    • Go for a jog
    • Come up with your own way to get moving!


    We’ve all experienced it. The feeling of frustration; like nothing is going right; nothing will ever be right again. Whether it is financial difficulties, your significant other, the kids or the boss, we have all experienced stress. We’ve all experienced it but what is stress really? What happens to our bodies during stressful periods?

    Stress can be defined as the pattern of how we respond to a stimulus that disturbs our equilibrium and taxes or exceeds our ability to cope. Stress is a fight-or-flight response to a situation. It is an autonomic response to a perceived danger or emergency. Our bodies enter a sympathetic state where our sympathetic nervous system creates increased activity in various body systems. An increase in metabolism, heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate and even muscle tension occurs. All of these things lead to that feeling of distress and unease.

    Any change in our lives can cause stress: a marriage, a death, a new baby, buying and moving into a new house, or even a new job. Good stress motivates us and challenges us. Bad stress, on the other hand, demoralizes us leaving us feeling over-burdened with a lack of motivation. How we respond to stress is the key to whether stress triggers are good or bad.

    Stress is divided into different stages according to Hans Selye, a Canadian endocrinologist who coined the term General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) to describe the physiological adaptations that occur in response to a continuing threat by almost any serious stressor.

    Stage 1 – Alarm reaction

    • increase in stress hormones excreted from the adrenal glands
    • physical symptoms include headache, fever, aching muscles and joints, fatigue, loss of appetite and feeling of being unwell
    • if the stressor is acute the body bounces back to its natural balance quickly
    • if the stressor is chronic the person enters the 2nd stage

    Stage 2 – Resistance / adaptation

    • symptoms from the 1st stage disappear due to developed “resistance”
    • physiological changes occur due to the slow increase in stress hormones such as altered glucose tolerance, blood pressure changes, thyroid and sex hormone changes
    • person experiences a reduced resistance to other stressors, even weak stressors can cause a strong reaction- this is the situation described as “the straw that broke the camel’s back”
    • excessive stress leads to the 3rd stage

    Stage 3 – Exhaustion

    • person can no longer maintain resistance
    • pituitary and adrenals cannot maintain production of hormones
    • symptoms from stage one reappear
    • degenerative diseases develop due to adverse influences of the stress hormones (which have been released since stage one)

    Being aware of our stress is the first step in combating it. There are various natural methods to combat stress and its symptoms.

    Lynne McNally B.Sc., N.D. is a licensed and registered Naturopathic Doctor. Treatments are covered by most extended health insurance plans. To book an appointment call 416-640-8477.

    This article originally appeared in the July 2010
    issue of Scarborough SNAP.

    Achieving Your New Year’s Resolutions

    Many of us make new year’s resolutions saying “this year will be the year!” Then we are disappointed when we do not achieve our goals. Things seem to fall by the way side around the end of January or February. We think “Maybe next year.” But your resolutions can still be achieved! The key is to set a series of smaller incremental goals that you can reach. Once you have achieved step one then step two is not that hard to obtain and so on. Changing habits such as poor eating/ overeating, drinking too much coffee, smoking and not exercising take work and it is unreasonable to expect those ingrained habits to change overnight. Here is a list of easily obtainable goals to get you started on the path to a healthy lifestyle!

    Goal: Cut back on junk food. Substitute junk food with healthy food by eating from the recommended serving of fruits and vegetables a day. Start by increasing the number of servings by one per week until you reach your goal. Try filling ½ of your plate with vegetables at each meal.

    Goal: Decrease the amount of food/calories eaten. Eating more whole foods will keep you full for a longer period of time. Be sure to eat whole grain foods. Also be aware of high calorie foods. E.g. that double chai latte has a lot more calories than a chai tea. Frequently we drink our calories by consuming pop, juice and specialty coffee drinks. Drink more tea and water. If you don’t like the taste of water try squeezing a lemon or lime into it.

    Goal: Decrease the amount of red meat consumed. Try substituting chicken, turkey, fish, beans or tofu one meal per week. Gradually increase the number of meals without red meat. You’ll see a healthier you and savings on your grocery bill!

    Goal: Limit coffee to one cup per day. Start by downsizing your coffee per serving. Try substituting green tea for coffee if you are having caffeine withdrawal.

    Goal: Quit smoking. Make a commitment to yourself. Going cold turkey works for some people while others respond better to decreasing the number of cigarettes smoked per day. Find the method that works for you.

    Goal: Exercise 3-5 times a week. Start off with a walk after dinner for 20 minutes then start extending the amount of time and the distance you travel. Walking is a great way to lose weight and it is cheaper than a gym membership!

    Once you have achieved these goals you can build on them until you become the healthiest, best you!

    Happy New Year!