NWHU urging public to stay safe in summer heat
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
The Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) is encouraging residents to enjoy the outdoors, but to also use safe measures while spending time in the warm summer sun.
“We are all excited for warmer temperatures but too much heat and too much sun can be dangerous. Heat related illnesses are a real risk, especially to those who are elderly, young, chronically ill or under housed,” said NWHU Health Promoter Stephanie Charles in a media release on June 27.
Charles shared that heat related illnesses are preventable. Ways to keep family, friends, and even pets safe include:
Seek shade or cool down at a beach or pool.
Slip on light coloured, loose-fitting, breathable clothing.
Slap on a wide-brimmed hat.
Slop on a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher.
Drink water before you feel thirsty. Avoid alcoholic, sugary or caffeinated beverages, which can contribute to dehydration.
Wear sunglasses that have both UVA and UVB protection.
Avoid strenuous outdoor activity and reschedule outdoor sporting events during peak heat hours.
Prepare meals that do not have to be cooked in your oven.
Keep babies under one year of age out of the direct sun.
Never leave people or pets inside a parked vehicle.
Charles said that those who have had too much sun exposure can try cooling off by resting in a cool place, drinking cool fluids, removing any unnecessary clothing, and making sure your clothes are lightweight and nonbinding. Other cooling measures include taking a cold shower, soaking in a cool bath, or putting towels soaked in cool water on your skin.
“Heat related illnesses include dehydration, heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps (muscle cramps), heat edema (swelling of hands, feet, and ankles), and heat rash. Signs and symptoms of heat illness include:
Nausea or vomiting
Rapid breathing and heartbeat,” said Charles.
According to the NWHU, infants and children, older adults and seniors, people who work in the heat, people who are under-housed, and people with chronic illnesses, such as breathing difficulties, asthma, heart conditions, or psychiatric illnesses, are more vulnerable to heat-related illnesses.
Throughout the summer residents can stay up to date on beach safety, safe drinking water, and more by using the NWHUConnect-Healthy Environments App.
“The NWHUConnect-Healthy Environments App is free and available on Android and iOS devices. By downloading the app, the public can access up-to-date and relevant information on beach safety, safe drinking water, and the prevention of tick-borne disease,” said Charles.
“The app will include notifications for local health hazards alerts such as city-wide boil water advisories, beach closures, extreme temperature events and air-quality advisories. Another feature of the app allows users to electronically submit photos of ticks found on humans from the trails, boats, or their cottage. Public health inspectors will review the images to determine the tick species and contact the submitter with further information. If the tick is identified as being a black-legged tick or one that can transmit diseases, it can be submitted to the NWHU for testing, which informs our tick-borne disease passive surveillance program. Results from this program are not meant to diagnose disease because it takes significant time to get the results back from the lab,” she explained.
Residents can also keep an eye out for NWHU signs at beaches that the health unit monitors, which will notify potential swimmers of anything harmful or hazardous in the water.
“The health unit assesses and monitors over 28 public beaches across our region. Staff sample beach water quality and respond to any complaints from the public. All of the public beaches that are monitored by the health unit have signs displayed. This sign gives people information on how to decide if it is safe to swim based on the current beach conditions. A red sign is posted when there are very high levels of harmful bacteria, or other hazards in the water that make it unsafe to swim. Individuals should not swim at beaches where this red sign is posted,” the press release explained.
For more information, download the NWHUConnect-Healthy Environments app on your smartphone, visit www.nwhu.on.ca or contact your local health unit office.