July 2, 2010

Feeling the Heat?

Information and tips on how you can stay safe in hot and humid weather.

High heat plus high humidity - People at risk during these weather conditions include:

  • The elderly

  • People with chronic illnesses (such as diabetes, heart and respiratory conditions) or people unable to move or change position by themselves

  • Infants and preschool children

  • People who exercise vigorously or are involved in strenuous outdoor work for prolonged periods

  • People taking certain medications

  • Homeless or marginally housed persons

How to avoid heat-related illness:

  • Drink lots of water and natural fruit juices even if you don’t feel very thirsty. Avoid alcoholic beverages, coffee and cola.

  • Avoid going out in the blazing sun or heat when possible. If you must go outside, stay in the shade as much as possible and plan to go out early in the morning or evening when it is cooler. Wear a hat.

  • If you don’t have air conditioning, keep shades or drapes drawn and blinds closed on the sunny side of your home, but keep windows slightly open.

  • Go to air-conditioned or cool places such as shopping malls, libraries, community centres or a friend’s place. Even brief periods are sufficient to cool down. Going to a cool place in itself will reduce the risk from heat-related illness because the person has been removed from the hot environment.

  • Fans alone may not provide enough cooling when the temperature is high.

  • Wear loose fitting, light clothing.

  • Keep lights off or turned down low.

  • Take a cool bath or shower periodically or cool down with cool, wet towels.

  • Avoid heavy meals and avoid using your oven.

  • Avoid intense or moderately intense physical activity.

  • Never leave a child in a parked car or asleep in direct sunlight. Infants and pre-school aged children are more sensitive to heat than adults. Young children have a smaller body surface area and do not regulate their body temperatures as quickly as adults.

  • Never leave a pet in a parked car or asleep in direct sunlight.

  • Consult your doctor or pharmacist regarding the side effects of your medications.

  • Don’t forget sunscreen!

When it's hot, it is hotter in the city

There is an urban heat island effect that makes the city hotter than the surrounding rural areas and even the surrounding suburbs. Masses of stone, brick, asphalt, and cement absorb heat in the day and radiate it during the night contributing to warmer nights. As well, there may be fewer trees to provide shade.

The effect of heat is more severe during heat waves

However, your body does get used to hot weather over a few weeks.

Symptoms of heat-related illness

a) Heat Exhaustion

  • Moist, cool, clammy skin, which may be pale or red in colour

  • Headache

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Dizziness

  • Fatigue

b) Heat Cramps (usually occur after significant exertion)

  • Muscular pain or spasms usually in legs or abdominal muscle

c) Heat Stroke (can be life threatening)

  • Dry, red, hot skin

  • Drowsy, confused, decreased level of consciousness

  • Nausea, vomiting

  • Increase in body temperature

  • Shallow breathing

  • Rapid pulse

If you are experiencing heat stroke symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

In an emergency, call 911.

For less serious symptoms,cool down by resting in a cool place, by using wet cloths or clothing, or by taking a cool bath.

Steps you can take to help someone with heat-related illness:

  • Remove excess clothing from the person.

  • Cool the person with lukewarm water, by sponging or bathing.

  • Move the person to a cooler location.

  • Give the person sips of cool water, but not ice cold water.

  • Call 911 for help if the situation appears urgent.


The use of fans can cool down individuals under certain situations. In other situations the use of fans can cause heat-related problems to become worse. When fans are used in rooms where the temperature is hot and the windows are closed, they tend to cause people to feel the effects of heat sooner. This happens because the hot air being moved by the fan over your body causes your body to fight against the heat by sweating more.

Fans do not cool the air. They just move the air around.

Tips for using a fan:

  • Box fans are best

  • Use your fan in or next to a window.

  • Do not use a fan in a closed room without windows or doors open to the outside.

  • Do not use a fan to blow extremely hot air on yourself. This can cause heat exhaustion to happen faster.

Dogs, cats and other pets

Dogs, cats and other pets can suffer from heat and without shade and water they can overheat, become ill and die within a short period of time. Signs of heatstroke include rapid panting, lots of drooling, hot skin, twitching muscles, vomiting and a dazed look.

To cool down your pet wrap it in a towel soaked with cool water or place it in a bathtub with cool water or pour cool water over the pet. Also watch for hot pavement and sand at beaches affecting sensitive paws.

Avoid overeating by your pet during hot weather. On hot days avoid vigorous exercise or activity for your pet during the hottest part of the day.

Never leave your pet in a parked car, even with the windows open slightly or parked in the shade.

Medications and hot weather?

Certain medications increase your risk of developing heat-related illness, especially if you are doing lots of exercise or heavy work and are not drinking enough water. Some medications make it harder for your body to control its temperature.

Some of the medicines that could put you a higher risk include:

  • Psychiatric drugs (i.e. Lithium)

  • Anti-parkinson drugs (i.e. Parsitan)

  • Antidepressant drugs (i.e. Paxil)

  • Some types of antihistamines (i.e. Benadryl)

  • Over the counter sleeping pills (i.e. Nytol)

  • Anti-diarrhea pills (i.e. Lomotil)

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