Avoid heat stroke and other hazards this summer

York’s Employee Well-Being Office has put together some suggestions to cope with the hot, humid summer.  Above all, the office recommends that we be careful and prevent possible heat-related illness. Heat illnesses include heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. All are debilitating and can be dangerous.

Typically, excessive heat and humidity can cause heat cramps, exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat cramps are muscle contractions which usually occur in the hamstring muscles in the legs. These contractions can be forceful and painful. Symptoms of heat exhaustion may include paleness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, fainting and moderately increased temperature. If you or someone you know exhibits these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

Heat stroke is the most severe form of heat illness. It can occur even if you are not exercising. Signs of a heat stroke include warm, flushed skin and usually no sweating. As with heat exhaustion, seek medical attention immediately.

Heat cramps, heat stroke and heat exhaustion can be prevented by following a few simple steps. These include drinking plenty of water, limiting exercise, moving to air-conditioned locations and dressing in lighter clothing so that it is easier to cool off.

The summer months are also a difficult time for those who suffer from allergies. Pollen counts are usually highest in the morning and lowest during the afternoon hours and in wet weather. Allergy sufferers should be selective and plan outdoor activities for the afternoon. Flowers which grace front porches, gardens and fields can be a source of aggravation for those with allergies; when possible, keep your windows closed to limit the pollen in your home. If you experience an allergy attack, drink plenty of fluids to help thin the nasal mucus.

Bee, wasp and mosquito activity peaks during the summer months. To deter bugs, try wearing light coloured clothing and avoid using perfume.  The West Nile virus is also a threat during the summer months and is spread by mosquitoes. Infection with the virus can cause severe and sometimes fatal illness. There were 3,000 reported cases of West Nile disease in the US during 2005, including 119 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The best defence against West Nile virus is prevention. Mosquitoes breed in standing water, so check your yard once a week: Get rid of containers that are not being used, empty water from flower pots, change water in bird baths and maintain clean gutters. Decorative ponds and pools should be treated regularly and stocked with mosquito eating fish. A mosquito or insect repellant should also be applied to clothing and exposed skin (always check with a doctor before wearing any repellent).

Last summer, the Greater Toronto Area experienced some heavy thunderstorms. If you hear a weather warning, pay attention. A weather warning means that severe weather is already occurring or will soon occur in your area. If you have planned outdoor activities, postpone them and know where your flood areas are located.

Always keep your car fueled to avoid running out of gas in traffic delays, which can happen in heavy weather. If you are on the road and you hear thunder and see lightning, get to a safe shelter immediately. If you are in a boat or close to water, move to shelter as soon as possible.

For more information, visit York’s Employee Well-Being Office or call ext. 55005. Stay safe and enjoy the summer season.