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Health Impacts and What to do

Temperatures across the province are increasing, which may put tenants at risk for heat-related and poor air quality related illnesses.

Temperatures across the province are increasing, which may put tenants at risk for heat-related and poor air quality related illnesses. Summer heat and poor air quality can be especially harmful for vulnerable people, like many of those that BC Housing and our partners serve. The good news is there are ways to keep people safe. This section provides tools and resources related to extreme-heat and poor air quality response for housing providers.

young child drinking water at the beach

Identifying who’s at risk

Everyone is at risk of heat-illnesses during extreme temperatures. However, social housing tenants are at increased risk because they often have fewer resources.

Groups at higher risk include:

  • Older people (65 years+)
  • Infants and young children
  • People living in high-rise apartments
  • People who are pregnant
  • People with chronic illnesses (such as breathing difficulties, heart conditions, or psychiatric illnesses)
  • People experiencing homelessness
  • People who work in the heat
  • People living alone
  • People without access to air conditioning or fans
  • People who take certain common medications, which can increase heat sensitivity or reduce personal temperature regulation and perception

Health Impacts and Illness

Extreme Heat & Poor Air Quality

May 14, 2019

Extreme hot weather and poor air quality events related to forest wildfires and rising air temperatures are occurring more and more often across the province. Learn how to recognize extreme heat illnesses and how to prevent or lower the risk of extreme heat and poor air quality.

Poor Air Quality Illnesses

Poor air quality can cause shortness of breath, lung irritation, fatigue and eye irritation. In extreme situations it can trigger asthma attacks, lower birth weights, a decrease in quality of life and anxiety.

Keep people indoors and close windows and doors during poor air quality events to prevent these symptoms; the less poor air exposure, the better. Take people to the hospital if they have an asthma attack that does not respond to a puffer, or if they are having trouble breathing.

Heat - related Illnesses

Extreme heat can cause heat-related illnesses, which are the result of your body gaining heat faster than it can cool itself down. It can lead to weakness, disorientation, exhaustion. In severe cases, it can lead to heat stroke or death.

Review HealthLink BC’s Beat the Heat page or the CDC graphic to recognize signs, symptoms and learn what to do if you think someone is suffering from a heat-related illness.

Combined Extreme Heat + Poor Air Quality Exposure

When an extreme heat event and a poor air quality event occur at the same time, cooling should be prioritized. Keep people inside for as long as possible by running fans, creating a cooling room, or going to a community cool-air shelter. If those are ineffective or not possible, get people to as cool a place as possible, even if this means opening windows to create a breeze or going outside to a shady area.

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