5 effective and easy ways to handle extreme heat this season

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We all look forward to warm summer days but the temperatures we’re experiencing right now can be too much. Extreme heat poses a danger to those who need to stay outside for extended periods and for those who have less tolerance, such as the elderly, kids below five years old, and those with chronic medical conditions.

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

  1. Plan your activities

    Plan your activities like gardening or exercising during cooler times of the day. Avoid being exposed to direct sunlight especially from 10 am to 4 pm. This is when the sun’s rays are the strongest and the chances of getting sunburn or experiencing heat exhaustion are high. Stay in the shade, wear a hat, and bring water with you if you can’t avoid being out in the sun. Take frequent breaks and stay hydrated.

  2. Wear loose-fitting clothes

    Wear loose-fitting, light-coloured clothes preferably made from lightweight materials. Natural fabric like cotton and linen can absorb sweat and allow your skin to breathe. Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face from the sun or use an umbrella. Wearing sunscreen lotion is also important to prevent sunburn, premature skin aging, and skin cancer.

  3. Cool in place

    Stay in air-conditioned or shaded areas and stay out of direct sunlight. Having the ac running in your home is the best way to beat the heat and humidity, but you can still stay cool if you don’t have ac. You can:

    • Use fans – A ceiling fan is preferable but you can use any type of fan to help cool down. A fan works especially well if the temperature outside is cooler than the temperature inside. If your fan needs a little bit of help and you want the air to be cooler, try blowing fan air through ice packs or frozen water bottles. See this simple demonstration below:
    • Cover your windows – This will limit the heat coming into your home. You can use blinds, curtains, window films, or shutters. Window films might be a good option as they are easy to install and nice to look at. These are made of a thin layer of polyester or vinyl film that can reflect the heat and light. Choose one that is semi-transparent so you don’t block views. You can ask a professional to install it for you or do it yourself (they are usually self-adhering, like stickers). You can buy window film at stores like Home Depot or Lowe’s or at hardware stores.
    • Use cold washcloths – Use washcloths that you’ve kept in the freezer or dipped in cold water and apply 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 in 10-15 minute intervals.
  4. Eat “cool” foods and stay hydrated

    Sweating (our body’s way to cool ourselves) is good, but it can lead to dehydration. Dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion then heat stroke (prolonged 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 get thirsty to prevent dehydration. If you’re out and about in the city, look for hydration stations in Winnipeg. You can easily refill your water bottle with a push of a button. Aside from water, eating fruits and vegetables that have high water content can also help. They’re also good for you since they are high-fiber, low-calorie foods. You can make salads with cucumber, broccoli, celery and bell peppers. It’s also the best time to eat watermelons, pineapples, strawberries, melons and oranges.

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

    A parked car under the sun is a dangerous place to be for anyone, especially babies, kids, pets and seniors. A car’s internal temperature can rise very quickly even in the shade. A 2015 study even shows that cracking a window open is not enough. Instead of leaving your kids, pets or elders in the car for a quick dash to the store, maybe just take them with you or drive them home first.

Watch out for heat exhaustion

Check for symptoms of heat exhaustion which can lead to heat stroke. Heat stroke is a serious medical emergency that can damage your brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles if left untreated. Kids under the age of four and people above 65 are the most susceptible to heat-related illness. Watch out for these symptoms if you’ve been out in the sun:

  • Headache
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting
  • Cool, clammy pale skin
  • Heavy sweating
  • Rapid, weak pulse
  • Nausea
  • Heat cramps, muscle spasms

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms or see someone who is, act fast. Find a cool spot, preferably with air conditioning. Remove tight or unnecessary clothing. Drink or use cold water to cool the body down (sprinkle it on or use a washcloth especially on the neck, armpits, and groin). If symptoms worsen, call 911 immediately especially if they’re starting to have trouble breathing, experience mental confusion or slurred speech, and unconsciousness.
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 to 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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