5 effective and easy ways to handle extreme heat this season

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We all enjoy warm summer days. But very high temperatures can be too much. Extreme heat can be dangerous for people who must stay outside for a long time. It can also be dangerous for people who have less tolerance. This includes older people, kids under five years old, and those with long-term health problems.

Here are some tips to help you stay cool, healthy, and safe at home or outside:

  1. Plan your activities

    Plan activities like gardening or exercising when it is cooler. Try not to be in the sun from 10 am to 4 pm. The sun is very strong during this time. You could get sunburn or feel too hot. Stay in the shade, wear a hat, and bring water with you. Take breaks and drink water often.

  2. Wear loose clothes

    Wear loose, light-colored clothes made from light materials. Cotton and linen are good choices. They can take in sweat and let your skin breathe. Wear a wide hat to protect your face from the sun or use an umbrella. Sunscreen lotion is also important. It can stop sunburn, early skin aging, and skin cancer.

  3. Stay cool

    Stay in cool or shaded areas and avoid direct sunlight. Having air conditioning at home is the best way to stay cool. But you can still stay cool without it. You can:

    • Use fans – A ceiling fan is best, but any fan can help. A fan works well if it is cooler outside than inside. If you want the air to be cooler, try blowing fan air through ice packs or frozen water bottles.
    • Cover your windows – This will stop too much heat from coming into your home. You can use blinds, curtains, window films, or shutters. Window films are a good choice because they are easy to put up and look nice. They are made of a thin layer of polyester or vinyl film that can reflect heat and light. Pick one that is semi-transparent so you can still see outside. You can ask a professional to put it up for you or do it yourself (they usually stick on like stickers). You can buy window film at stores like Home Depot, Lowe’s, or at hardware stores.
    • Use cold washcloths – Use washcloths that you’ve kept in the freezer or dipped in cold water and put them on your face and neck. You can also use an ice pack but don’t put it directly on your skin as this can cause a burn. Wrap the ice pack in a towel first then use it for 10-15 minutes at a time.
  4. Eat “cool” foods and drink lots of water

    Sweating (our body’s way to cool down) is good, but it can make us dehydrated. Dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion and then heat stroke (long or repeated instances can even lead to urinary tract infections and kidney problems). That’s why it’s important to drink water even before you feel thirsty to prevent dehydration. Besides water, eating fruits and vegetables with lots of water in them can also help. They’re also good for you since they have lots of fiber and few calories. You can make salads with cucumber, broccoli, celery, and bell peppers. It’s also a great time to eat watermelons, pineapples, strawberries, melons, and oranges.

  5. Never leave kids, pets, and grandparents alone in the car

    A parked car under the sun is a dangerous place for anyone, especially babies, kids, pets, and older people. A car’s inside temperature can go up very quickly even in the shade. A 2015 study even shows that opening a window a little is not enough. Instead of leaving your kids, pets, or elders in the car for a quick trip to the store, maybe just take them with you or drive them home first.

Watch out for heat exhaustion

Look for signs of heat exhaustion, which can turn into heat stroke. Heat stroke is a very dangerous health problem. It can hurt your brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles if you don’t get help. Young kids under four years old and older people above 65 are more likely to get sick from the heat. Be careful and watch for these signs if you have been in the sun:

  • Headache
  • Feeling light-headed, dizzy, or fainting
  • Skin that is cool, damp, and pale
  • Sweating a lot
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Feeling sick to the stomach
  • Heat cramps, muscle spasms

If you notice any of these signs in yourself or someone else, act quickly. Find a cool place, ideally with air conditioning. Take off tight or unneeded clothes. Use cold water to cool down the body (splash it on or use a wet cloth, especially on the neck, armpits, and groin). If the signs get worse, call 911 right away. This is important if the person has trouble breathing, becomes confused, has trouble speaking, or loses consciousness.
Article updated May 26, 2023.
Source: How to cool your home or building for hotter temperatures, Bannet Braich, CBC; 5 important tips to stay cool without the AC, Hannah Roberts, Insider; All about sunscreen, Skin Cancer Foundation. Accessed July 13, 2021.

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Community Resources

Manitoba pools and splash pads usually open in July. Check this directory on Manitobakids.ca or Spray pads if you’re in Winnipeg.

Thinking of upgrading your home cooling (or heating) system? Check the Home Energy Efficiency Loan, an assistance program under Manitoba Hydro.

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