The heat is on: Top tips to keep cool and stay safe in the heat wave

How do you know when you need help from the heat? Dr. François de Champlain, an emergency physician at the McGill University Health Centre, explains what to look for and what to do to protect yourself.
Environment Canada issued a special weather statement earlier this week warning of extreme temperatures this weekend. (Radio-Canada)

Health officials are warning city-dwellers to take the warm temperatures seriously and be on the lookout for heat-related ailments.

"Heatstroke is a deadly, feared complication," Dr. François de Champlain, an emergency physician at the McGill University Health Centre, warned. "If not treated promptly, it can lead to more than 50 per cent mortality."

There are some key things to do to make sure you protect yourself in extreme temperatures, De Champlain told CBC Montreal's Daybreak.

Get some A/C

During a heatwave, de Champlain recommended spending at least two hours a day in an air-conditioned space. Anyone who does not have air conditioning at home should find a public place where they can cool down, he said.

"Shopping centres, movie theaters, public libraries," he suggested. "Just try to get that air conditioning somehow."

Take a cold bath

Those who have access to pools or lakes should take advantage. But, if it's not possible or the local pool is too busy, then a cold bath is a good substitute. De Champlain said the aim should be to take at least one cold bath a day, especially if you don't have air conditioning.

De Champlain, who is also the medical director for the Montreal's marathon, said that they often use cold baths to treat marathon runners suffering from heatstroke.

"I can tell you that's life-saving," he said.

Health officials say hitting the pool, splash pad or cold bath will help keep heatstroke at bay. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Drink smart

"There's a lot of moving this weekend, and a lot of parties that involve alcohol. But alcohol is not a good thing [in these situations]," he said.

While it is important to stay hydrated, alcohol and caffeine will inhibit the body's ability to thermoregulate, increasing the risk of heatstroke.

Recognize the signs

De Champlain said it is important to recognize the warning signs that lead to full-blown heatstroke.

Dehydration, headaches and nausea followed by severe fatigue are "the signs that you need to pay attention to," he said.

When heatstroke sets in, the person will appear flushed and have dry skin as dehydration prevents sweating.

"When you can not sweat anymore, this is when your core temperature goes high very, very quickly," he warned.

At that point, heatstroke has set in.