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Fraser Health to issue heat warnings

Fraser Health and Environment Canada are teaming up to issue health alerts and a new Extreme Heat-Wave Advisory when extended periods of hot weather pose a threat to public health.

While the weather this summer has not yet warranted much concern, in July 2009, a week-long heat wave with temperatures in the Fraser Valley approaching 40 C led to a number of heat-related deaths, leading to the creation of the warning system.

“Everybody appreciates warm weather, but we sometimes fail to realize the dangers of severe heat,” said David Jones of Environment Canada.

“The Extreme Heat-Wave Advisory will tell people that a hot spell is moving to another level, and they need to take immediate action to stay safe.”

Currently, Environment Canada issues a public special weather statement when temperatures on successive days in the Lower Mainland are projected to exceed 32 C. Now, medical health officers will release their own warning as well, with tips the public can use to beat the heat.

“In effect, the hot weather news release would be a signal for municipalities and the general public to get ready, hot weather is on the way,” said VCH Medical Health Officer Dr. Meena Dawar.

In the event of intense heat, an Extreme Heat-Wave Advisory will be issued, triggering municipal heat response plans, including education messages to the public and vulnerable populations, advice about cooling centres and water stations, or considerations for outdoor events including water availability and schedule changes.

Beat the heat: Stay hydrated

• Drink cool non-alcoholic beverages (preferably water) irrespective of your activity intake. Don’t wait until you are thirsty.

• If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask about increasing the amount of water you can drink while the weather is hot.

Keep cool

• Spend at least several hours every day in an air-conditioned facility.

• Use public splash pools, water parks or pools or take a cool bath or shower.

• At current temperatures, fans alone are not effective. Applying cool water mist or wet towels to your body prior to sitting in front of a fan is a quick way to cool off.

• Dress for the weather by wearing loose, light-weight clothing. Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.

• Keep your home cool. Open windows, close shades, use an air conditioner and prepare meals that do not require an oven.

• Avoid sunburn, stay in the shade or use sunscreen with SPF 30 or more.

• Avoid tiring work or exercise in the heat. If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of non-alcoholic fluids each hour. Limit outdoor activity during the day to early morning and evening.

• Never leave children or pets alone in a parked car. Temperatures can rise to 52 C within 20 minutes in an enclosed vehicle when the outside temperature is 34 C. Leaving the car windows slightly open or “cracked” will not keep the inside of the vehicle at a safe temperature.

Check in on others

• People living alone are at high risk of severe heat related illness. Check regularly on older people, those who are unable to leave their homes and anyone who may not be spending at least several hours every day in air conditioned places for signs of heat-related illness.

• If they are unwell, move them to a cool shady spot, help them get hydrated and call for medical assistance if required.

• HealthLink: dial 811.

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