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June 2010 was the warmest June ever recorded worldwide and if temperatures continue to rise, this could be the warmest summer in Toronto's history. To stay safe in these extreme weather conditions, UHNews asked Dr. Kenneth Chapman, Director of the Asthma and Airway Centre at TWH, for advice on heat warnings and air quality.
How does extremely hot weather affect our health?During severe heat waves, a person's body could overheat and dehydrate which can cause heat exhaustion or heat strokes. Symptoms of these conditions include headaches, nausea, sleepiness, confusion, aggression and loss of consciousness. People who exercise in hot weather are at a much greater risk of dehydration.
How can we protect ourselves from the extreme heat?On days when there are extreme heat alert warnings, try to plan your day so that you're indoors most of the time and out of the heat. Try to avoid going outside during the hottest hours of the day — between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. — and try to schedule your outdoor activities earlier or later in the day. Keep yourself hydrated by drinking lots of fluids and find different ways to stay cool like standing in shaded areas or swimming.
How does poor air quality affect our health?It doesn't need to be hot outside for air quality to negatively affect our health. Poor air quality is due to excess gases — such as nitrogen dioxide or sulphur dioxide — in the atmosphere. Most of these gases are a result of pollution from traffic and manufacturing power generation. These gases irritate the breathing passages which in turn could worsen the condition of someone with lung disease or asthma. This irritation could lead to other health problems that are commonly seen in emergency rooms.
How can we reduce smog in Toronto?To help reduce smog, people should consider greener alternative means of transportation such as biking, walking, using public transit or if you have to drive, be efficient about it. People should also be more aware of energy usage and find ways to conserve.
– Priscilla Hsu