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Heat Facts

Printable Fact Sheet (PDF)


Climate change is likely to have wide-ranging effects on human health in coming years – it is expected that heat waves will occur more frequently, be hotter, last longer and have higher levels of humidity. Warmer temperatures and prolonged heat waves will also bring an increase in air pollution.

What happens to the body during extreme heat?

The body's temperature control system can become overwhelmed and the body's core temperature increases. Sweating helps cool the body, however, when the humidity is high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly. This will prevent the body from releasing heat quickly and high core temperatures can damage the brain or other vital organs.

Are you at risk from extreme heat?

Everyone is at risk, but some individuals are more susceptible to the effects of extreme heat:

  • Infants and children
  • Seniors
  • The homeless
  • Pregnant women
  • Individuals who are ill or on certain medications
  • Individuals who exercise vigorously or play sports outdoors
  • Individuals who do strenuous outdoor work for prolonged periods of times (e.g. construction or manual labour)
  • Individuals who are overweight (tend to retain more body heat)

Why are children at risk?

Children have a high metabolic rate and therefore produce more heat. Also, their capacity to sweat is not as great compared to adults; so it is more difficult for them to release heat from their bodies. Additionally, the effects of dehydration are greater in children. Children also rely on others to provide adequate fluids.

Are there certain children to monitor even more carefully?

Yes, children with diabetes, anorexia, obesity, developmental delays, cystic fibrosis, heart disease and diarrhea are at an even greater risk.

Why are seniors at risk?

  • Elderly people do not adjust as quickly to sudden changes in temperature.
  • They are more likely to have chronic medical conditions that can upset the normal response to heat.
  • They are more likely to take medications that impair the body’s ability to regulate its temperature, or that inhibit sweating.

What can seniors do to protect themselves?

  • Drink plenty of fluids (consult with your doctor to see how much fluid to drink).
  • Wear lightweight & loose-fitting clothing.
  • Keep physical activity to a minimum.
  • Rest indoors and use a fan and draw blinds/curtains to prevent radiant heat from entering. If possible, stay in an air conditioned place.

For more information call Health Connection at 705-721-7520 (1-877-721-7520).

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