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Health Precautions for Heat Waves

SIMCOE, JULY 17, 2015- Recent weather predictions suggest that hot and humid weather may be on its way into the area. While some may be happy to finally see humidex temperatures reach the mid-thirties to low-forties, the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit is reminding the public to take precautions during extreme heat events.

Extreme heat can put everyone at risk from heat illnesses, however health risks are greatest for:

  • older adults;
  • infants and young children;
  • people with chronic illnesses, such as breathing difficulties, heart conditions, or psychiatric illnesses;
  • people who work in the heat;
  • people who exercise in the heat;
  • homeless people; and
  • low-income earners.

If you are taking medication or have a health condition, ask your doctor or pharmacist if it increases your health risk in the heat and follow their recommendations.

Heat illnesses include heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat fainting, heat edema (swelling of hands, feet and ankles), heat rash and heat cramps (muscle cramps).
Watch for the general symptoms of heat illness, which include:

  • dizziness or fainting;
  • nausea or vomiting;
  • headache;
  • rapid breathing and heartbeat;
  • extreme thirst; and
  • decreased urination with unusually dark yellow urine.

If you experience any of these symptoms during extreme heat, immediately move to a cool place and drink liquids. Water is best.

Heat stroke is a medical emergency. This occurs when the body is no longer able to cool itself and a person’s body temperature becomes dangerously high. In addition to some of the general heat illness symptoms, persons experiencing heat stroke could have slurred speech and may have an altered mental state or behaviour where they appear confused, disoriented, and/or irritable. Their skin may appear flushed, dry and hot and they could even experience a seizure or become unconscious. Call 911 immediately if you are caring for someone, such as a neighbour, who has a high body temperature (>40°C/104°F) and is either unconscious, confused or has stopped sweating. While waiting for help – cool the person right away by:

  1. Moving them to a cool place, if you can;
  2. Applying cold water to large areas of the skin or clothing; and
  3. Fanning the person as much as possible.

Fortunately, heat illnesses are preventable. The public is advised to beat the heat by taking these precautions:

  • Frequently visit neighbours, friends and older family members, especially those who are chronically ill, to make sure that they are cool and hydrated.
  • Drink plenty of cool liquids, especially water, before you feel thirsty to decrease your risk of dehydration. Thirst is not a good indicator of dehydration.
  • Reschedule or plan outdoor activities during cooler parts of the day (e.g. early morning, late afternoon)
  • Wear loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing made of breathable fabric.
  • Never leave people or pets in your care inside a parked vehicle or in direct sunlight.
  • Take a break from the heat by spending a few hours in a cool place. It could be a tree-shaded area, swimming facility or an air-conditioned spot such as a public building, shopping mall, grocery store, place of worship or public library.
  • Take cool showers or baths until you feel refreshed.
  • Prepare meals that don’t need to be cooked in your oven.
  • Block sun out by closing awnings, curtains or blinds during the day.
  • Avoid sun exposure. Shade yourself by wearing a wide-brimmed, breathable hat or using an umbrella.

Media Contact:

Kris Lutzi, BHS, BASc, CPHI (C)
Sr. Public Health Inspector, Environmental Health Team
12 Gilbertson Dr., Simcoe, ON N3Y 4L1
Phone: 519-426-6170 ext. 3261
Fax: 519-426-9974
E-mail: [email protected]
Website: www.hnhu.org