Well Being: How to prevent heat stress


While the long hot days of summer are wonderful, they can also bring on heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke, exhaustion and dehydration. During the summer months heat can get extreme in certain workplaces, particularly where there is heat-generating equipment. 

Each summer our emergency departments see some patients suffering from various heat-related problems. These include anything from mild dehydration, nausea, malaise and fatigue to the rare, but more serious, heat stroke.

Early symptoms of heat stroke include fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and malaise. During the onset of a heat wave, these should be seen as early warning signs.

If you think you are suffering from heat-related illness the MUHC offers the following advice:

  • Stop, seek shelter or a cool place, rest and hydrate yourself (drink water)
  • Elderly people should avoid going out during extreme heat periods, especially if they are on medications such as water pills
  • Drink plenty of cool water, even before you feel thirsty, unless contraindicated
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • If it is possible, use a fan to create air movement
  • Use blinds, shades to filter direct sunlight
  • Wear lightweight clothing preferably in cotton to allow sweat evaporation
  • Take your breaks in the shade

Everyone should take precautions during heat or extreme heat episodes, but some people are more at risk than others, namely:

  • Elderly people
  • People suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes or cardiovascular, respiratory or neurological diseases; and 0- to 4-year-old children.

Oppressive heat

Environment Canada issues “heat alerts” when the temperature reaches 30 °C and the humidex (temperature and humidity combined into one number to reflect the perceived temperature) reaches 40. The main effect of heat on the population is discomfort.

Extreme heat

The term “extreme heat” has been defined by public health authorities to plan for heat events as a means of foreseeing heat episodes that are likely to have an impact on the health of vulnerable individuals. In Montréal, an “extreme heat” episode is defined as three consecutive days when the average maximum temperature reaches 33 °C and the average minimum temperature does not drop below 20 °C, or when the temperature does not drop below 25 °C for two consecutive nights. Environment Canada does not issue extreme heat alerts, but its weather forecasts are used to anticipate situations which could cause health problems.



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