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Health checks during heat waves can help protect the most susceptible

A new health check guide by the National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health helps to identify people at risk and provides guidance on how to keep cool during extreme heat events.
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A new health check guide developed by the National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health (NCCEH) and University of Ottawa helps to identify people most at risk during an extreme heat event and provides guidance on how to keep cool.

Climate change is leading to more frequent and intense extreme heat events across Canada with certain groups, like older adults, more vulnerable to the impacts of extreme heat. 

“Some people are at higher risk of experiencing heat-related illness. Regularly checking in with susceptible people to see how they are coping can dramatically reduce heat-related illness and death,” said Adrian Dix, B.C.’s Minister of Health.

NCCEH, housed at the BC Centre for Disease Control, in collaboration with Dr. Glen Kenny at the Human and Environmental Physiology Research Unit of the University of Ottawa, developed the new, plain-language guide for doing in-person and remote health checks. In addition to providing information on how to identify susceptible people, the guide offers actions for reducing body and indoor temperatures, and how to recognize heat-related illnesses. 

”Regular health checks are one of many tools we can use to keep people safer during extreme heat events,” says Dr. Sarah Henderson, scientific director of the NCCEH and Environmental Health Services at the BC Centre for Disease Control. “Many susceptible people may not recognize when they are overheating, but another person can help identify a risky situation with some careful questions and observations. Check in as often as possible. At least twice a day and once in the evening when it is hottest indoors.” 

Extreme heat events can lead to dangerous indoor temperatures in homes without functioning air conditioning. Depending on the building and location within the city, indoor temperatures can be even hotter than outdoor temperatures due to heat absorbed by the surrounding environment, building materials and sun shining through the windows. 

For people who are susceptible to heat, sustained indoor temperatures over 26°C can pose a risk to health, and sustained temperatures over 31°C can be dangerous. 

“Heat-related illness can occur following prolonged exposure to hot environments where the body’s ability to dissipate heat is overwhelmed, leading to potentially dangerous increases in body temperature,” says Dr. Kenny. “Severe heat related illness, conditions such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke, are more likely to occur in older people and those with medical conditions.”  

Heat check rapid assessment checklistThe NCCEH guide can be used as a resource by anyone doing health checks during heat waves. The Health checks during extreme heat events guide provides:
  • A rapid risk assessment checklist
  • Information on how to recognize and respond to heat-related illness
  • How to do in-person health checks
  • How to do remote health checks
  • Information on body and indoor temperatures
The health check guide is available in English and French: https://ncceh.ca/documents/guide/health-checks-during-extreme-heat-events 
(Additional language translations to come)

More information

The BC Centre for Disease Control, a part of the Provincial Health Services Authority, provides public health leadership through surveillance, detection, treatment, prevention and consultation services. The Centre provides diagnostic and treatment services for people with diseases of public health importance, and analytical and policy support to all levels of government and health authorities. The BCCDC also provides health promotion and prevention services to reduce the burden of chronic disease, preventable injury and environmental health risks. For more, visit www.bccdc.ca  or follow us on Twitter @CDCofBC.

The Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) provides specialized health care services and programs to communities across British Columbia, the territories of many distinct First Nations. We are grateful to all the First Nations who have cared for and nurtured this land for all time, including the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), and səlil̓w̓ətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations on whose unceded and ancestral territory our head office is located. We work in partnership with other B.C. health authorities and the provincial government to deliver province-wide solutions that improve the health of British Columbians. For more information, visit www.phsa.ca or follow us @PHSAofBC.

The National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health is one of six National Collaborating Centres created to foster linkages within the public health community. NCCEH focuses on health risks associated with the physical environment and identifies evidence-based interventions to mitigate those risks. The centre is hosted by the BC Centre for Disease Control and is funded through the Public Health Agency of Canada. For more information, visit ncceh.ca

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Media contact

Heather Amos
BCCDC Communications
778.984.1301
or PHSA media line: 778.867.7472
heather.amos@phsa.ca


 
 

 

 

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