HAMILTON, ON – July 19, 2011- The Medical Officer of Health for the City of Hamilton has called a heat alert effective for Wednesday, July 20, 2011. As a result of this heat alert being issued, the City of Hamilton Emergency Control Group has been activated.

A Heat Alert is issued when the humidex is expected to reach 40 or greater for four or more consecutive days. The humidex reached 40 on July 17 and 18 and is forecast to do so again today, possibly tomorrow, and likely Thursday and Friday, triggering this heat alert. Additionally, Thursday has an unusually high forecast Humidex of 46.

“Current forecasts indicate that the current heat event will extend over 8 or 9 days making this the longest heat event that Hamilton has experienced in recent memory,” said Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, Hamilton’s Medical Officer of Health. “This is not your normal summer weather, we need to recognize the very real risk this presents. It is now critical that people reach out to family and friends, particularly the ill, the elderly, and people who can’t get out of their homes easily, to make sure they are handling this heat.”

The combination of temperature and humidity can impair the cooling effect of sweating, and increase the risk of heat-related illness. People who are elderly, or have chronic illnesses, mobility problems, are taking certain medications, or spend much of their time alone, along with infants, pre-school children, and those exercising or working vigorously outdoors are most vulnerable to the effects of heat and humidity.

Risk of heat-related illness can be reduced by following these recommendations:

Check on your neighbours and family. Especially isolated adults and seniors who may not have air-conditioning or transportation.
Drink plenty of water. Avoid drinking alcoholic and caffeinated beverages on hot days.
Go to an air-conditioned place. Visit a cool place such as a mall, public recreation centres, public libraries, and other City run air-conditioned facilities, etc.
Dress to protect from the heat. Wear lightweight, loose-fitting, light coloured clothing. Wear a hat or take an umbrella to keep your head cool and don’t forget sunscreen.
Take it easy. Limit physical activities (walking, running, gardening, etc.) during the day. If rescheduling activities to dawn or dusk when it may be cooler, protect yourself with insect repellent as mosquitoes are more active at such times. Check labels to apply.
Cool off. Take a cool bath or shower.
Keep your living space cool. Close your blinds or curtains. Open windows to let air circulate when using a fan.
Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles. Temperatures in a car can become life threatening within minutes.
Reschedule sporting activities. Consider rescheduling sporting activities to early morning or evening or postponing them until cooler weather.
Take care working outdoors. If your job requires you to work outdoors take extra care to drink plenty of water. If possible take your scheduled breaks in an air-conditioned place or in the shade.

Signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, weakness, cold, pale and clammy skin; weak pulse, fainting and vomiting. If experiencing symptoms, seek help right away – call 911 if needed.

For tips on coping with the heat and places to go to cool off, the public can contact 905-546-2489 Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information on how heat affects human health, see Health Canada’s website at http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/iyh-vsv/environ/heat-chaleur_e.html  

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