Fish oil supplements see a 600% rise in Canadian web searches. Are they safe? Plus more health-related questions, answered

Across Canada, people were looking for more information on health-related topics like fish oil supplements, heat stroke and measles.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.

From left: A woman in heat stroke, someone with a measles rash and yellow fish oil supplements. (Photos via Getty Images)
This week, Canadians are concerned about heat stroke, measles and fish oil supplements. (Photos via Getty Images)

From nutritional concerns regarding ostarine and fish oil supplements to interest about conditions like measles and stiff person syndrome, Canadians had a lot on their minds this week. Headline-making news has, once again, pushed many people across the country to open their web browses in hopes of getting their health-related questions answered.

But what do you do when there's so much information to parse through, let alone lots of different sources you can't trust when it comes to health? Read on to learn more about some of the top health-related questions Canadians asked this week.

A recent study has found regular use of fish oil supplements might increase the risk of someone in good cardiovascular health having their first stroke or experiencing atrial fibrillation. The research indicated people without heart issues who regularly use fish oil supplements might have a 5 per cent heightened risk of having a stroke. Moreover, those people could also have a 13 per cent higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation.

A spread of foods that have omega-3s including salmon, spinach and nuts, alongside fish oil supplements. (Photo via Getty Images)
Alzheimer’s preventive neurologist Dr. Richard Isaacson says it's best to get your omega-3s from food sources, the best of which include sardines, wild-caught salmon, mackerel, herring, albacore tuna, seaweed, edamame, flaxseed, chia seeds and walnuts. (Photo via Getty Images)

The research was published in BMJ Medicine on Tuesday, and analyzed the data on more than 415,000 people between the ages of 40 and 69 participating in the UK Biobank, a study of the health of people in the United Kingdom that began in 2006. Nearly one-third of those people, who were followed for an average of 12 years, said they regularly use fish oil supplements.

Denver-based cardiologist Dr. Andrew Freeman told CNN over-the-counter fish oil supplements typically lack purity and consistency. They also may contain contaminants and heavy metals like mercury.

"Studies over the last 10 years have not been very positive for over-the-counter fish oil," he added. "Fish oil was either having no benefit or in some cases it may harm, such as with stroke and AFib."

Freeman also said prescription versions of fish oil, such as Vascepa and Lovaza, there might also be a risk of AFib and stroke: "Overall, I would say that the days where people just go to the store and buy buckets of fish oil pills to keep them well should be over."

Volunteers provide lime sugar water to people at a camp set up to prevent heat stroke on a hot summer day, in Karachi, Pakistan, Thursday, May 23, 2024. Doctors were treating hundreds of victims of heatstroke at various hospitals across Pakistan on Thursday after an intense spell of the heat wave began in the country, and the mercury rose to above normal due to climate change, officials said. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)
Volunteers provided lime sugar water to people in Karachi, Pakistan this week, as hundreds of people suffered heat stroke amid dangerous temperatures. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

As temperatures rise across the world, there was a 120 per cent rise in searches for heat stroke symptoms in Canada this week. While several provinces including British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario saw higher-than-normal temperatures this May, wildfires were also a concern as blazes raged in various parts of the country.

In South Asia, extreme heat also became a concern, with temperatures soaring as high as 49 degrees Celsius in Pakistan with some weather forecasters expecting it to climb to 55 degrees Celsius, according to the Associated Press. Amid the heat wave, hundreds of people suffered heat stroke, forcing some hospitals to set up emergency response centres. Moreover, "King of Bollywood" Shah Rukh Khan was reportedly hospitalized with heat stroke on Wednesday in Ahmedabad, India, but is now recovering well.

With the official start of summer just around the corner, temperatures are likely only going to rise. So, it's important to learn about heat-related illnesses and their symptoms, along with what you should do in a medical emergency.

A young woman having a heat stroke on a warm summer day, while she tries to cool down with a cold water bottle. (Photo via Getty Images)
If someone has either heat exhaustion or heat stroke, you should remove them from the heat and try to pour water on their body. (Photo via Getty Images)

Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness, and it occurs when your body can no longer regulate its temperature. If someone presents any of the following heat stroke symptoms, the Canadian Red Cross noted it's important you call 9-1-1 immediately:

  • Skin will feel dry and hot

  • Seizures

  • Coma

  • Severe headache

  • Altered behaviour, including irritability, aggression or bizarreness

  • Rapid, shallow breathing

If someone has heat exhaustion, they might present slightly different symptoms, including headaches, weakness as well as moist and warm skin. They might also have nausea, start vomiting, faint, become anxious or feel dizzy. In cases with those latter symptoms, you should also call 9-1-1.

To help, the Canadian Red Cross suggested removing the person from the heat, loosening tight clothing, avoiding drying the skin and offering a cool drink if they're alert for both heat stroke and heat exhaustion. You can also pour water on their torso and fan the skin, but for heat stroke, it's recommended you immerse the person's body — or at least their forearms — in cool water.

A child with a rash, likely from a measles infection. (Photo via Getty Images)
Measles symptoms include high fever, coughing, runny nose, a whole-body rash, red and watery eyes as well as small white spots inside the cheeks. (Photo via Getty Images)

Ontario has recorded its first measles death since 1989, according to a report released on Thursday. The province indicated the victim was a child under the age of five from Hamilton. They were one of five unvaccinated kids who contracted the disease this year.

This has prompted health officials to warn about the risks of being unvaccinated as measles cases rise across Canada and globally. So far in 2024, Ontario has reported 22 cases of the illness. There are currently 34 active cases across the country, and 76 measles cases have been reported in Canada since the start of the year.

As the disease becomes a rising risk, these are the measles symptoms you should be aware of:

  • High fever

  • Coughing

  • Runny nose

  • Rash all over the body

  • Red, watery eyes

  • Small white spots inside the cheeks

Complications from measles are what causes the majority of deaths, including:

  • Blindness

  • Encephalitis (an infection causing brain swelling or damage)

  • Severe diarrhea and dehydration

  • Ear infections

  • Severe breathing problems

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