Air Quality, Cold and Heat

The Brant County Health Unit keeps the community informed of extreme cold alerts and heat warnings as they are issued by Environment and Climate Change Canada.

It’s important to heed safety warnings for extreme cold, as hypothermia and frostbite can have serious consequences.

The Medical Officer of Health issues a heat warning when Environment and Climate Change Canada forecasts two consecutive days with a maximum daily temperature of 31°C or higher during the day and a minimum temperature of 20°C or higher during the evening, or a humidex of 40°C or higher.

The Health Unit will also alert the public to poor air quality. When forest fires, pollution or extreme heat affect the air we breathe, limit the time you spend outdoors and move into an air-conditioned space for shelter.

The Medical Officer of Health issues a heat warning when Environment and Climate Change Canada forecasts two consecutive days with a maximum daily temperature of 31°C or higher during the day and a minimum temperature of 20°C or higher during the evening, or a humidex of 40°C or higher.

An extended heat warning is issued when a heat warning has lasted for over three days.

This warning remains in effect on a daily basis until cancelled. 

While everyone is at risk from extreme heat, the health risks are greater for these people:

  • older adults;
  • infants and young children;
  • people with chronic illnesses such as breathing difficulties, heart conditions or psychiatric illnesses;
  • people who work and/or exercise in the heat; and
  • those without air conditioning in their homes.

If you take medication or have a health condition, ask your doctor or pharmacist if it increases your health risk in the heat and follow their recommendations.

Heat-Related Illness

Heat-related illnesses include heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat fainting, heat edema (swelling of hands, feet and ankles), heat rash and heat cramps. Symptoms of these illnesses may include:

  • dizziness or fainting;
  • nausea or vomiting;
  • headache;
  • rapid breathing and heartbeat;
  • extreme thirst; and
  • decreased urination with unusually dark yellow urine.

If you experience any of these symptoms during extreme heat, immediately move to a cool place and drink liquids. Water is best.

Heat-related illnesses are preventable. To reduce your risk of heat-related illness, here are a few things you can do:

  • Avoid the sun.
  • Drink lots of cool liquids, especially water before you feel thirsty. Thirst is not a reliable measure of dehydration.
  • Reschedule or plan outdoor activities during cooler parts of the day.
  • Wear loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing made of breathable fabric.
  • Never leave people or pets in your care inside a parked vehicle or in direct sunlight.
  • Take a break from the heat in cool places, including a tree-shaded area or air-conditioned building so long as you ensure you are maintaining physical distancing from others.
  • Take cool showers or baths.
  • Prepare meals that don’t need to be cooked in an oven.
  • Block sun out by closing curtains or blinds during the day.
  • Shade yourself by wearing a wide-brimmed, breathable hat or using an umbrella.
  • Stay hydrated, drink plenty of water and avoid alcoholic beverages and caffeine.
    • Choose cool water and coconut water and the occasional fizzy drink.
    • Eat high water content foods like watermelon, grapes, cucumber and tomatoes.
  • Exercise outdoors.
    • Head out early or late in the day. Choose larger green spaces with shade.
  • Turn off or unplug as many appliances as possible.
    • Fix meals with little or no cooking.
    • Unplug appliances when not in use to reduce heat created.
  • Create a cold water bottle.
    • Fill a hot water bottle with cold water and freeze then place near your feet.
    • Keep your hot/cold therapy pack in the freezer.
  • Use a fan wisely.
    • Fans can just circulate hot humid air, so point it out a window to push the hot air out or place a shallow bowl of ice in front of the fan to blow cooler air toward you.
  • If sleeping is unbearable, try a slightly damp towel in bed.
  • Use a cool/cold foot bath to cool you down.
  • Frequently connect with vulnerable neighbours, friends, and older family members, especially those who are chronically ill, to make sure they are cool and hydrated. Use the Health Checks During  Extreme Heat Events guide for doing in-person or remote health checks.
  • Check with the City of Brantford or the County of Brant for cooling centre information and locations.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is a medical emergency.

Call 911 immediately if you are caring for someone who has a high body temperature and is unconscious, confused or has stopped sweating.

While waiting for medical help to arrive, if you can, help cool the person by:

  • moving them to a cool place;
  • applying cold water to large areas of the skin or clothing; and
  • fanning the person as much as possible

The Medical Officer of Health for the Brant County Health Unit issues a cold alert when temperatures are expected to drop below -15oC, without wind chill.

This warning remains in effect on a daily basis until cancelled.

Everyone is at risk during very cold weather. In temperatures of -15oC or colder, unprotected skin can freeze in less than 30 minutes and the risk of developing hypothermia is high.

The Brant County Health Unit and the City of Brantford work together with various community agencies to ensure that emergency accommodation is available during the extreme cold. Everyone is encouraged to seek shelter.

Call the Housing Resource Centre
1-888-621-0034
Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Salvation Army (single men aged 18+)
187 Dalhousie St., Brantford; 519-753-4193
Rosewood House (single men and women aged 18+)
42 Nelson Street, Brantford; 519-750-1547
Nova Vita (homeless women/children)
59 North Park St., Brantford; 519-752-4357
Youth Resource Centre (male and female youth aged 15-19)
331 Dalhousie St, Brantford, ONN3S 3V8 (519) 758-9644​
Afterhours Shelter Needs:
St. Leonard’s Community Services
331 Dalhousie St., Brantford; 1-888-621-0034

Prevention

To prevent cold injuries, such as hypothermia and frostbite:

  • Wear several layers of clothing and make sure the outer layer protects you from both wind and wetness.
  • Cover exposed skin using hats, scarves, neck warmers, mittens, and/or face masks.
  • Wear waterproof winter boots with an extra layer of socks.
  • Drink warm, caffeine- and alcohol-free fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • Check on elderly and vulnerable people frequently, to ensure they are safe and warm.

Vulnerable

Some groups are particularly vulnerable to the frigid temperatures, including:

  • Older adults
  • Infants and young children
  • People with chronic illnesses, such as breathing difficulties or heart conditions
  • The homeless
  • People working or exercising outdoors
  • People living in homes that are poorly insulated or lack sufficient heating

Cold-Related Illness

Cold-related illnesses include hypothermia, frost bite, and windburn. Symptoms of these illnesses may include:

  • Skin redness, soreness, itchiness, and excessive dryness
  • Yellowish or white skin that is still soft to the touch
  • Shivering
  • Goosebumps
  • Numb hands
  • Quick and shallow breathing
  • Mild confusion
  • Blue lips, ears, fingers, and toes
  • Trouble speaking and thinking
For help with food and clothing: ​
Brantford Food Bank

1100 Clarence Street, Brantford

519-751-4357

Salvation Army Brantford Family Services Food Bank

33 Diana Avenue, Brantford

519-752-7814

Friendship House

452 Grey Street, Brantford

519-753-8511

Salvation Army Brantford Family Services Food Bank

25B Dundas Avenue, Paris

519-442-3432

Society of St. Vincent de Paul

143 Wellington Street, Brantford

519-751-0143

Kindness Project

Brantford Market Square, Lower Level

1 Market Square, Brantford

226-401-3626

 

To learn more about cold-related illnesses, including treatments, please visit Health Canada’s website.

The Medical Officer of Health for the Brant County Health Unit will be issuing Special Air Quality Statements and Air Quality Advisories in order to alert the public about deteriorating air quality affecting Brantford/Brant and to provide protective health messaging. These air quality statements and advisories will be based on the provincial Air Quality Health Index (AQHI).

The AQHI describes air quality in relation to health on a scale from 1 to 10. As the number increases, the greater the health risk associated with air quality. When the level of air pollution is very high, the number will be reported as 10+.

Special Air Quality Statements will be issued when the AQHI is forecasted to reach the high-risk category (AQHI 7-10).

An Air Quality Advisory will be issued when the AQHI is forecasted to reach the very high-risk category (AQHI 10+) due to wildfire smoke. For Brantford and the County of Brant, local AQHI readings can be found at MECP’s Air Quality Ontario website that includes current readings and maximum forecast values for today, tonight, and tomorrow. The special air quality statement or advisory will be cancelled once the air quality in Brantford/Brant has improved.

The AQHI scale describes health risks associated with each index reading:

Low Risk: AQHI 1-3

Moderate Risk: AQHI 4-6

High Risk: AQHI 7-10

Very High Risk: AQHI 10+

When local AQHI values exceed 7, higher-risk populations are advised to reduce or reschedule strenuous outdoor activities. All others should consider reducing or rescheduling outdoor activities if they experience coughing or throat irritation.

Populations considered at higher risk of experiencing health effects caused by poor air quality include:

  • Seniors
  • Indigenous Peoples
  • People who smoke
  • Infants and young children
  • People living in rural and remote areas
  • Pregnant women and pregnant people
  • People involved in strenuous outdoor exercise
  • Outdoor workers (including wildland firefighters)
  • People living in situations of lower socio-economic status, such as:
    • Lower income
    • Lower education
    • Housing insecurity
    • Uncertain employment
  • People with an existing illness or chronic health conditions such as:
    • Cancer
    • Diabetes
    • Lung or heart condition

Exposure to smoke most commonly results in milder symptoms such as:

  • Eye irritation
  • Throat irritation
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Headaches

More severe symptoms include:

  • Dizziness
  • Chest pains
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Heart palpitations

Exposure to wildfire smoke is associated with several health effects including exacerbation of existing respiratory and cardiovascular diseases such as:

  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Congestive heart failure

Poor air quality may also impact mental health, especially for individuals in closer proximity to a wildfire.

Individuals may experience worsening mental health impacts such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • General distress caused by natural disasters and climate change

The most effective ways to protect yourself from poor air quality are to stay indoors, limit time outdoors, and reduce physical activity.

If you need to go outside, a well-fitted respirator type mask, such as an N95, that does not allow air to pass through small openings between the mask and face, can help reduce your exposure to fine particles. These fine particles generally pose the greatest risk to health. However, respirators do not reduce exposure to the gases caused by smoke or other particulate matter. It is important to listen to your body and reduce or stop activities if you are experiencing symptoms.

Individuals are encouraged to adjust their activities based on their personal risk level and the evolving conditions. Individuals who have questions about their personal risk level should consult their primary health care provider. To learn more about the health risks of air pollution, visit the Government of Canada’s website.

 

Health Risk AQHI Health Messages
At-Risk Population* General Population
Low 1-3 Enjoy your usual outdoor activities Ideal air quality for outdoor activities.
Moderate 4-6 Consider reducing or rescheduling strenuous activities outdoors if you are experiencing symptoms. No need to modify your usual outdoor activities unless you experience symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation.
High 7-10 Reduce or reschedule strenuous activities outdoors. Children and the

elderly should also take it easy.

Consider reducing or rescheduling strenuous activities outdoors if you

experience symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation.

Very High 10+ Avoid strenuous activities outdoors. Children and the elderly should also avoid outdoor physical exertion. Reduce or reschedule strenuous activities outdoors, especially if you experience symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation.

 

The Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) determines the air quality where you live.

When a heat warning comes with an adverse air quality advisory:

  • reduce strenuous activity during periods of extreme heat;
  • plan physical activities for cooler parts of the day;
  • exercise in an air-conditioned place, or a cooler outdoor location such as a tree-shaded area; and
  • avoid high traffic areas because pollution levels tend to be higher on hot days.

Heat

Air Quality

Sun Safety