High Heat, Humidity Can Cause Health Problems

Department of Health (To Jan. 11)

June 24, 2005 3:19 PM

The Department of Health is advising Nova Scotians to follow some basic heat safety precautions on Saturday, June 25, to avoid illness due to high heat and humidity.

The humidex is expected to be high on Saturday, in inland portions of western and central Nova Scotia, increasing the risk of heat stress and other heat-related illness.

Those most at risk of getting sick as a result of high heat and humidity are preschoolers, adults aged 65 or older, people of any age who overexert themselves during work or exercise, and people who are sick or on certain medications.

Heat-related illness occurs when the body's temperature-control system is overloaded. The body normally cools itself by sweating, but when the humidity and temperature are high, sweating may not be effective enough. Signs of heat illness include rapid breathing, headache, weakness or fainting, confusion and more tiredness than usual.

The most severe effect on health is heat stroke. A person suffering from heat stroke has a high body temperature -- above 40 degrees Celsius -- hot, dry skin and dizziness or confusion.

"We encourage all people to stay out of the sun and heat as much as possible during this time," said Dr. Maureen Baikie, Nova Scotia's deputy chief medical officer of health. "If you must be outside, plan your activities either in the early morning or in the evening, be sure to drink plenty of fluids, and use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher when outdoors."

Dr. Baikie suggests that employers offer adequate breaks for staff working outdoors or in places that are not air-conditioned. She also said that organizers of sport and recreational activities should build in adequate water breaks and should strongly consider rescheduling activities. Dehydration can increase the risk for heat-related illness.

People who are most at risk should spend a few hours in cool or air-conditioned locations or take cool showers or baths. Fans may not be effective when the temperature and humidity are very high.

Similar in concept to winter's wind-chill factor, the humidex is a measure developed by meteorologists to describe how heat and relative humidity combine to make it feel hotter than it actually is. The humidex takes into account the two most important factors that affect summer comfort -- temperature and humidity -- and is therefore a better measure of how stifling the air feels.

For important heat safety tips, see the website at www.gov.ns.ca/health/opmoh . The daily humidex level can be found at www.weatheroffice.ec.gc.ca/canada_e.html


FOR BROADCAST USE:

     The Department of Health is advising Nova Scotians to take

proper precautions on Saturday (June 25th) because of the heat

and high humidity.

     The conditions increase the chances of heat stress and

other heat-related illnesses.

     Those at greatest risk of heat-related illnesses include

young children, the elderly, and those who are ill or on certain

medications.

     People should try to stay indoors if possible. It is also

important to drink plenty of fluids and wear protective

clothing and sunscreen with S-P-F 15 or higher when outdoors.

-30-

Contact: Jackie Van Amburg
         Department of Health
         902-424-3034
         Cell: 902-233-7685
         E-mail: mjvanamburg@ns.gov.nca