By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
While many residents in Durham Region have likely been turning up their air conditioning, extremely hot days have been a rare commodity so far this summer.
Paulo Correia, a senior health inspector for the Durham Health Department, says there has only been only one extreme heat warning so far in 2017.
“We’ve had some hot weather, but it’s nothing like last year when we had consistent temperatures over 30 degrees,” Correia says.
The highest temperature reached so far this year in Oshawa, according to data from Environment Canda, was 29 degrees Celsius on Wednesday, July 19.
The health department follows protocols laid out by Environment Canada when declaring an extreme heat warning.
Such a warning is set when temperatures are greater than 31 degrees during the day and 20 degrees at night or the humidex is greater than 40 degrees for two or more days.
Despite the lack of warnings so far, Correia says everyone should still be well aware of the potential hazards of extreme heat.
Correia says groups such as seniors, infants and small children, and people with pre-existing medical conditions face the highest potential danger from hot weather and high humidity levels.
First and foremost, Correia says people must protect their skin, calling it the “greatest protection” against the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.
“Make sure you wear sunscreen, stay in the shade and try to avoid lengthy periods of sun exposure,” Correia says.
Extremely hot weather also poses the threat of illnesses such as heat rash, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Heat stroke is a medical emergency with symptoms such as dizziness or fainting, nausea or vomiting, headache, rapid breathing and heartbeat and extreme thirst.
Correia says while these symptoms may not always result in heat stroke, it is always best to visit a medical professional.
Another important tip is to drink plenty of fluids, with Correia pointing to water as the best choice.
“It’s important to remember that once you are thirsty, you are already in a state of dehydration,” he says.
Correia advises avoiding drinks such as coffee or alcohol during extreme heat, as they naturally leave the body dehydrated.
Other tips include wearing loose fitting clothing; a hat with a large brim; and staying in the shade.
Limited activity between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., the hours when temperatures are the highest during the day, is also recommended.
For residents who may not have air conditioning, Correia says there are a number of places to cool down during the hot weather, including libraries, municipal buildings, public pools and splash pads.
He also suggests to take a cold shower if one feels overheated.
Finally, Correia advises residents that along with not leaving pets and small children in vehicles on an extremely hot day, anyone with mobility issues as well, noting that it only takes a few minutes before the heat starts to take its toll on the body.
For more information of heat safety and the latest warnings, visit durham.ca/heat