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Heat Health Effects

When the outdoor temperatures begin to rise, staying cool can be difficult and exposure to high temperatures can cause serious or life-threatening health effects. During these times, our greatest concerns are for the people most at risk. These include infants, seniors, the homeless, outdoor workers, athletes, people living in poorly ventilated homes or without air conditioning, and anyone with a power outage due to other weather-related events.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed below during a heat event, try to move to a cool place, and drink liquids right away. Water is best.

Heat stroke is a medical emergency! If you are caring for someone who has a high body temperature and is either unconscious, confused, or has stopped sweating, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

How do you handle the heat?

If you are between 50 to 85 years of age and reside in Canada, please consider completing this important survey. It is estimated to take 20 minutes.

The Human and Environmental Physiology Research Unit at the University of Ottawa recently launched a Canada-wide survey on knowledge, risk perceptions, attitudes, and practices related to heat stress. Given that heatwaves are increasing in frequency and severity due to climate change, public health stress prevention and management is of critical importance to prevent adverse heat-health effects. The results of this survey will inform heat-health protection strategies among older adults who are a greater risk to extreme heat and will assist in directing the development of future protections.

The survey is open to anyone who resides in Canada and is between 50 to 85 years of age until August 31, 2022. Please consider taking a few minutes to complete this important survey!

Click here to complete the survey in English.
Click here to complete the survey in French.

Heat (EN)

Our body's temperature control system can become overwhelmed and our internal body temperature increases.

We cool our body by sweating, however, when the humidity is high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly. This prevents the body from releasing heat quickly and high body temperatures can damage the brain or other vital organs.

There are a wide range of heat related illnesses. Examples include:

  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Extreme thirst
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Behavioural changes in children
  • Rapid heartbeat and or breathing

Being aware of the signs and symptoms can help prevent medical emergencies such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Get medical attention immediately during signs of fainting, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke. It is important to know the signs and symptoms of heat related illnesses and how to protect yourself and your family. Health Canada provides further information on signs, symptoms, and safety tips during extreme heat.

  • Children's body systems produce more heat than adults.
  • Their ability to sweat is not as great as adults; so it is more difficult to cool off.
  • The effects of fluid loss through sweating are greater in children.
  • Children rely on others to provide necessary fluids.
  • Children with existing medical conditions are at an even greater risk.
  • They do not adjust as quickly to sudden changes in temperature.
  • They are more likely to have existing medical conditions that can affect their response to heat.
  • They are more likely to take medications that impair their body's ability to regulate temperature, or that limit their ability to sweat.

There are ways to stay safe from the heat when you are unable to access air conditioned spaces. Consider the following things to help you keep cool:

  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water.
  • Dress for the weather. Wear loose-fitted, light-coloured clothing, hats, and sunglasses.
  • Avoid spending long periods of time outside. If you must be outside, stay in the shade.
  • Keep your home cool.

      -  Block the sun by closing blinds or curtains during the day.
      -  Open windows at night to let cooler air into your home.
      -  Make meals you do not need to cook in the oven.
      -  Use air conditioner or fan if possible.

  • Take a cool shower or bath.
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