Summertime is here and although we all had to endure many changes this year, what remains the same is the summer heat. During this time, everyone is looking for a way to stay cool and if you are planning to spend some time outside, there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself from heat related health risks.

In a conversation with Daniella Moss, RN., CDE., MSc., a Diabetes Nurse Educator with Sherbourne Health, she provides helpful tips on how to beat the heat and shares her thoughts and experiences with reoccurring issues and how the city could do more to support its vulnerable populations.

Does our diet affect our ability to stay cool during the summer?

Moss: While food doesn’t directly cool us down, having water containing foods (like cucumber, citrus, leafy greens) can help to keep us hydrated in the summer.

What are some recurring issues that you are seeing amongst your patients during the summer heat?

Moss: Headache (from dehydration), skin rash or irritation (from skin rubbing on skin- like between our thighs or under our arms) or from bug bites and sweat, increased blood sugar if people are reaching for pop or juice or iced cappuccino to relieve heat instead of water

As a nurse that is specifically within the diabetes program, is there a higher risk for those with diabetes during a heat wave than someone that does not have diabetes?

Moss: Diabetes can make heat more dangerous. First, high blood sugar dehydrates, because the body tries to get rid of extra sugar through urine and sweat, so people with diabetes can be more prone to dehydration and to more serious complications of dehydration. Over time, diabetes can affect our nerves and our ability to sweat, so some people with diabetes may sweat less and therefore have a harder time controlling their body’s temperature.

What are some of the risk factors to going outside during a heat wave?

Moss: Dehydration is the biggest and most common risk. Dehydration can be very serious and lead to fainting or electrolyte imbalances if we get too warm and don’t replace fluids. There is also a risk of sunburn and sunstroke, which worsen dehydration and can lead to painful burns

Do you think there are more effective measures that the city can implement to help people stay cool during the summer?

Moss: I think we should have a comprehensive cooling strategy including more and easier access to cooling centres, and financial support for people to purchase fans and air conditioners for their homes, particularly those more vulnerable, such as seniors and those with young kids. Every year people die from the heat and many of those deaths are preventable.

For those that may not have a cooling system at home, what could they do to stay cool?

Moss:

  • Most importantly – drink lots and lots of water
  • Take a cool shower or bath, close blinds in rooms that get sun, and consider putting up a black-out blind or even a blanket over windows that get a lot of direct sunlight
  • Use cold washrags on your neck and wrists
  • Use the fans on your kitchen stove or bathroom to suck out hot air, use a stand fan and place it pointing out the window to pull out hot air and suck in cool air
  • If you feel dizzy, very tired, confused or are struggling to drink enough water, head to a cooling centre or call 911

Finally, these tips are inexpensive and resourceful ways to beat the heat whether you enjoy spending your summer outdoor or indoor.