City, health units offer tips to stay safe as the mercury spikes

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With the temperature on the rise this week, Sudbury residents can take steps to stay cool

The Sudbury health unit and the city both say they are ready to offer advice to area residents on how to beat the heat.

Environment Canada is forecasting warm temperatures for today and the rest of the week, all within the range of 30C. The average high temperature for this time of year is 20C.

To help people deal with that, Public Health Sudbury & Districts (PHSD) has already put out an advisory on avoiding heat-related illness in connection with the rising temperatures.

Early summer is a time of increased risk because our bodies have not yet adapted to the warmer weather, said PHSD. Also this is a time of year when anyone can experience heat exhaustion and heat stroke, said PHSD.

“People who are most at risk include older adults, infants and young children, pregnant women, people with chronic illnesses, people who are homeless, people who use alcohol or illicit drugs, and those who work or exercise in the heat,” said the note. “Those who take medications or have a health condition should consult their doctor or pharmacist to determine if they are at increased risk from the heat and follow their recommendations.”

There are some signs and symptoms of heat-related illness that can be monitored, such as:

  • breathing rapidly,
  • Feeling weak or fainting,
  • Being more tired than usual,
  • Cramps, usually in the legs or abdomen,
  • Developing a headache or confusion.

To prevent heat-related illness, PHSD recommends:

  • Drink lots of water. Avoid drinks made with alcohol or caffeine.
  • Avoid going out in the sun or heat when possible.
  • Keep electric lights off or turned down low.
  • Take a cool bath or shower periodically, or cool down with cool, wet towels.
  • Wear loose-fitting, light clothing and seek shade.
  • Avoid eating heavy meals and using your oven.
  • Try to take it easy and rest as much as possible.
  • Place a dish of ice cubes in front of your electric fan. It has a cooling effect.

The City of Greater Sudbury has a Hot Weather Response Plan that has been revised several times over recent years to become a formal heat warning information system that works in collaboration with the health unit.

The document says a key reason is to alert those most at risk of heat-related illness that hot weather conditions are either imminent or currently exist and to take appropriate precautions.

“The best defense against heat-related illness is prevention: staying cool, drinking fluids, moderating physical activities and wearing loose, light-colored clothing,” said the plan.

In the event of two days in a row of plus-36C temperatures, a heat warning would be issued. The warnings would be upgraded if the higher temperatures continued over several days.

Following confirmation with the medical officer of health, the municipality would initiate procedures such as opening cooling centers in community centres, extending the hours of local beaches and swimming pools, issuing public advisories and encouraging people to check up on friends and neighbors.

In the event of forecast extreme high temperatures over an extended period, the city is prepared to launch 24-hour cooling centers, free transit to the cooling centers and increasing public outreach using Canada Post workers, city police and city utilities staff members.

Len Gillis covers health care and mining for Sudbury.com.