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Heat warning issued for Howe Sound

Advice from a doctor for construction workers, athletes and parents of young kids.
Sun Brian AAug. 23
Sun dog as seen in Squamish.

It is going to be hot again, folks.

Too hot.

Environment Canada has issued a heat warning for Howe Sound, including Squamish, Whistler, Sunshine Coast, east Vancouver Island and inland Vancouver Island.

Today (Wednesday, Aug. 24) and tomorrow, we are set to see daytime highs of 29 to 34 C and overnight lows of 15 to 17 C.

Squamish meteorologist Jason Ross tells The Squamish Chief high temps are a result of an upper low over southern B.C. and a ridge of high pressure just offshore.

An upper trough will push towards southern B.C, bringing cooler temperatures, more clouds and a chance of showers on the weekend.

Dr. Michael Schwandt, medical health officer with Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) and clinical assistant professor in the UBC School of Population and Public Health, told The Squamish Chief it is important to consider the impact of heat on our health.

Signs to watch for

A Vancouver Coastal Health alert about the heat notes that the 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, use water to cool your body and monitor your symptoms." VCH states.

Signs of heat stroke include:

  • loss of consciousness
  • disorientation
  • confusion
  • severe nausea or vomiting
  • very dark urine or no urine

Heat stroke is a medical emergency.

Working in the heat

In Squamish, plenty of construction crews have been working through the warmer temperatures this summer.

"We know that people who are working outdoors, during warm temperatures, can be at an increased risk for extreme heat illness, definitely,” Schwandt told The Squamish Chief.

"We advise both workers and employers to try to build in more frequent breaks into the day, to make sure that there's support for people to keep hydrated before — and not after — people start to feel hot and thirsty. Try to be proactive in that way, trying to provide shade or cooler spaces where possible — really trying to adapt the work as much as we can to avoid that prolonged heat exposure."

He added that in some cases, being alert to the impact of heat may mean postponing or adapting a job to keep workers safe.

Most importantly, if workers start to feel ill, it is vital to pay attention to that and act immediately to hydrate and cool off.

"It's not just a matter of discomfort, but potentially severe health outcomes," he said.


Even very well-trained athletes can still be vulnerable to the effects of extreme heat, Schwandt said.

"It can often take people by surprise," he said.

He recommends that athletes avoid physical exertion during the hottest part of the day.

"If it's something that you might be able to do another day, it might be a good idea. Sometimes, it might just mean looking to do something a little bit earlier in the day than you might have otherwise."

Check on the vulnerable

He notes that older and isolated folks took the heat the hardest during the heat dome, sometimes dying alone at home.

A BC Coroners Service report found that of the 619 deaths reported in last year’s heat dome, from June 25 to July 1, 2021, half of those who died lived alone, and 67% (415) of decedents were 70 years of age or older.

This happens, he said, because heat illness can progress very quickly.

If folks are starting to sweat heavily, feel nauseated, feel dizzy, or have a headache, "that needs to be a clear signal from our body to change our activity," he said.

"Oftentimes, unfortunately, people might try to wait it out. And if they're not able to get to a pool or space or to cool down, the symptoms can move very quickly, especially if people have these medical vulnerabilities. It can often move from heat exhaustion to what we'd call heat stroke, or have an effect on different organs of the body, in very short order, unfortunately."

He recommends that folks check on each other during hot days to protect the community's most vulnerable.

Watch kids

Children are vulnerable to the effects of heat, too, Schwandt cautioned.

"With children, it's very important to monitor them closely because children are less likely to notice and less able to communicate if they have early symptoms of heat illness," he said.

And kids' symptoms can be different.

"Typically, children will often become fussy, lethargic, potentially just appearing very tired," he said.

Schwandt noted that due to human-caused climate change, there will be more and more of these heat events.

He said the health system needs to adjust to this new reality, as do individuals and communities and governments. 

Learn more about heat illness and what you can do to combat it on the VCH website

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