Nfld. & Labrador

'We're normally pretty cool': Experts offer advice as heat wave sweeps across N.L.

The high temperatures in Newfoundland and Labrador might not be as extreme as the heat in other parts of the country, but experts say they could still be dangerous, especially for those who are elderly or have pre-existing health conditions.

The heat will give way to fall-like temperatures this weekend

Thursday is going to be a scorcher in most parts of Newfoundland and Labrador. (CBC)

The high temperatures in Newfoundland and Labrador may not be as extreme as the heat in other parts of the country, but experts say they could still be dangerous, especially for those who are elderly or have pre-existing health conditions.

Environment Canada issued a new round of heat warnings for much of Newfoundland on Thursday, covering territory stretching from Gros Morne National Park on the island's west coast to Clarenville and the Bonavista Peninsula on the east coast. 

A similar warning was in effect Wednesday. Temperatures are expected to reach a high of 31 C.

"It's going to be hot and sticky," cautioned Gander meteorologist Mike Vandenberg..

Vandenberg said the temperatures will increase further inland in eastern areas. With humidity, it could feel like 37 C. Further west, temperatures will be a little cooler.

Overnight minimum temperatures will be in the high teens.

Dr. David Allison, director of health and emergencies with the Canadian Red Cross Atlantic region, said the heat could be dangerous because Newfoundland and Labrador residents generally aren't used to it, even during the summer.

"Where we're normally pretty cool, the degree of heat we're having now could present problems," he said.

As temperatures rise and humidity goes up, Allison said, people lose their ability to cool down naturally. He said when people get too hot or get dehydrated, they're at risk of developing heat exhaustion, which can turn into heat stroke.

Dr. David Allison says the extreme heat could be dangerous because Newfoundlanders and Labradorians generally aren't used to it. (CBC)

Allison advises people to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, stay in a cool spot, avoid strenuous activities and avoid alcohol. If they start developing symptoms of heat exhaustion like a headache, nausea or weakness, it's a good idea to put cool water on their skin.

If people begin experiencing more severe symptoms, like a rapid pulse, a body temperature higher than 40 C, or fainting, it may be time to call 911.

He also warned against leaving pets or children in vehicles on hot days since temperatures can soar even higher.

Feeling the heat

Allison noted that more vulnerable people are at higher risk from extreme heat, especially if they don't have access to an air conditioner or a cool space. He noted that accessing air conditioning may be even more difficult than usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's difficult to know what to recommend about that, because what we don't want to do is be crowding together with a whole bunch of other people in places like that," he said.

Alicia Legge, community information officer with Epilepsy Newfoundland and Labrador, said high temperatures can trigger seizures in people with epilepsy. She said extreme heat can even trigger seizures in people who don't have epilepsy.

She said the heat can be dangerous for those taking medications, since excessive sweating can cause the medication to dissolve from the body. For those with epilepsy, the absence of medication can have dangerous consequences.

"Once that medication leaves your system, then your seizure threshold is lowered," she said.

Alicia Legge, Epilepsy Newfoundland and Labrador's community information officer, says high temperatures can cause problems for people with epilepsy and people taking medications. (Emma Grunwald/CBC)

Like Allison, Legge advises people to drink water and stay in a cool space. She said it's a good idea to keep windows closed during periods of high humidity, even though it might seem counterintuitive.

"People often think if we have high humidity, that opening your windows to get a breeze is a good idea. It actually lets the humidity into your house," she said.

Using fans or air conditioning is the best way to keep your home cool on hot days, said Legge.

The hot weather won't be sticking around for long, however.

The heat will give way to milder temperatures on Friday, before dropping to temperatures in the mid-teens on Saturday. Vandenberg said the air will start to feel like conditions in the fall. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Newfoundland Morning and Cecil Haire

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