Canada is known for its bone-chilling winter the world over. But this week an exceptional heat wave is taking over the country leading to many reported deaths in British Columbia.
Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner, Public Safety and Solicitor General of BC said this in a statement Wednesday. “The last five days in British Columbia have seen an unprecedented number of deaths reported to the BC Coroners Service. Between Friday and today, at least 486 sudden and unexpected deaths have been reported to our agency. This number is preliminary and will increase as coroners enter death reports into our system. While it is too early to say with certainty how many of these deaths are heat related, it is believed likely that the significant increase in deaths reported is attributable to the extreme weather B.C. has experienced and continues to impact many parts of our province.”
News outlets are full of stories about the weather and impacts of the heat dome on our lives.
Summer is a time Canadians look forward to. As new immigrants, we look forward to going outside, enjoy the warmth of the sun on our skin, play with our kids in splash pads and fountains or to picnic in the open. However, the record-breaking temperature across the nation is making us uncomfortable as well as laying bare the reality of how unprepared we are, as a nation, for extreme heat situations.
Many of us, immigrants, came from places that faced extreme heat and we had our indigenous ways of dealing with the scorching heat while in our countries of origin. It’s time to look back at those practices and put them to use. For example – covering your head when out in the sun, wearing full sleeved natural fabrics and going out either in the morning or evenings to avoid the mid-day heat would be some ways to deal with it.
The Immigrant Life, your friend in this journey, brings you some ways to prepare, prevent, and managing during extreme heat conditions.
- Water is your friend. Keep yourself hydrated at all times with water, or fruits with high water content such as watermelon, cucumber.
- Choose shade. If you have to go out when the sun in bright, carry an umbrella, sun hat, and glasses for your eyes. When in the park of places outside, remain out of the heat under a tree, shadowed areas or street corridor etc.
- Keep a tab on your friends, elders, neighbors and others in the community and offer your assistance whenever they require.
- Be in the know. Environment Canada publishes frequent updates on weather situation according to location. Check news or other outlets to remain informed.
- If you have air conditioning available, use it. If it is unavailable, draw the curtains to not let heat come in.
- Take cool showers to keep your body temperature low.
- Use the sunscreen.
- When getting into a parked car, pull the windows down and let the air flow and turn on the AC.
- Do not leave anybody including your pets in the vehicles.
- Dress in natural fabric such as cotton and cover your body.
- If you have trouble sleeping, we suggest purchasing a breathable cotton sheet, placing a fan near your bed to create air circulation, and placing your pillowcases or sheets in a plastic bag and storing them in the freezer during the hot summer days. For those who wake up in the middle of the night, try taking a cold bath or shower before heading to bed.
- Keep a cool mind. Sticking to a daily routine is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Experts recommend getting up and going to bed at the same time each day — and keeping regular mealtimes, too. That means an early dinner at least three hours before bedtime, eating balanced meals that are never skipped or eaten while you’re overly hungry, and taking work breaks every couple of hours.
- Exercise is a must, but don’t overdo it: swimming and any activity done near water are ideal. Trying the left nostril breathing exercise is an easy yoga trick that you can pull up any time you need to relax and cool off. It’s simple: just inhale through your left nostril and exhale through your right, covering the right side of your nose with your thumb to direct the airflow.
Recommended cooling foods
- Dairy: Milk, cream, butter, yogurt, cottage cheese, egg whites
- Meats: Smaller servings of chicken, turkey, shrimp
- Beans and Legumes: Tofu, lentils, garbanzo, small black or red beans
- Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds
- Oils: Olive, walnut or coconut oils; ghee (clarified butter)
- Grains: Barley, oats, wheat, white rice, amaranth
- Vegetables: Tender salad greens, leafy vegetables, asparagus, celery, zucchini, green beans and peas; cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy, Brussels sprouts). Consider avoiding nightshades (e.g., potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant) as they can cause joint pain in people prone to inflammation.
- Fruits: Apples, cherries, grapes, mangoes, melons, oranges, pears, peaches, pineapple, coconut, pomegranates, plums, raisins, all types of berries
- Herbs and Spices: Cardamom, coriander (cilantro), parsley, basil, mint, cinnamon, cumin, dill, fennel, lemon and lime, peppermint, saffron, turmeric
What to do when heat strikes someone?
Heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke, can happen to anyone who is exposed to the heat or the sun for too long.
Learn how to identify the symptoms which could show up in the form of dizziness or fainting, nausea and vomiting, headache, extreme thirst or sweating, decreased urination and palpitations. If you recognize the symptoms, immediately provide relief with hydrating, helping them cool off and calling emergency services.
What are long term solutions?
While the scientists figure out what is causing such extreme weather conditions which are becoming a frequent occurrence in the recent times, climate change has been labelled the culprit.
What can you do that can help mitigate these situations in the future?
We’ve arrived at this state largely due to our behaviours and we must look at ways to change them.
Check The Immigrant Life article on how to be environment friendly. Or go back on your immigrant roots and adopt time tested practices to help earth heal.
Refer to Canadian Red Cross resources on Heat Waves: Information & Facts
Written by Meena Kaini and Binny George.