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Preventing health problems associated with climate change


Climate change affects temperature and increases the frequency of extreme weather events, such as heat waves and floods. These changes impact public health in numerous ways. Here are a few suggestions to help prevent these health problems.

Find cool areas

Extreme heatcan cause significant health problems. Certain areas of a city have a higher maximum temperature than other areas. These are called “urban heat islands.” The difference between the temperatures of these islands and those of rural areas and neighbouring forests can reach 12°C.

Several factors can cause the formation of urban heat islands:

  • Human factors:
    • Greenhouse gas emissions from factories, buildings and cars
    • A lack of vegetation
    • Size of the city
    • Asphalt roads and parking lots (the dark colour attracts heat, etc.)
  • Natural factors:
    • Temperature
    • Humidity
    • Wind

As such, during periods of oppressive and extreme heat, it is best to find cooler areas:

  • Outdoors: parks, bathing areas
  • Indoors: cool or air-conditioned areas, such as shopping centres and libraries

Numerous measures are in place to create cool areas and counter the effects of urban heat islands. For example, cities plant trees and establish green spaces in order to create cool areas near some hot spots.

Extreme heat can cause significant health problems.

Protect yourself from oppressive and extreme heat

During periods of oppressive heat, you can take precautions to protect yourself, such as staying hydrated and dressing appropriately. For more advice, consult Preventing the effects of oppressive and extreme heat.

Protect yourself from the sun and UV rays

On warmer days, people spend more time outdoors and are more exposed to the sun. Make sure you protect yourself by wearing sunscreen and sunglasses. For more information on how to protect yourself from the sun and UV rays, and to know the effects of tanning on your skin, consult Protection from the sun and UV rays.

Prevent the health effects of smog

Smog can cause various respiratory problems, even in healthy individuals. During periods of smog, avoid intense outdoor physical activity. Vulnerable people should stay indoors. These people include:

  • Children
  • Seniors
  • People with respiratory problems
  • People suffering from or who have had cardiovascular problems
  • People involved in outdoor activities or those who work outdoors regularly

Protect yourself from mosquito and tick bites

Several diseases transmitted by insects and ticks, such as the West Nile virus and Lyme disease, have become more frequent in recent years because of climate change. For more information, consult Protecting yourself from mosquito and tick bites and Reducing the number of mosquitoes in your surroundings.

Contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions

Climate change is attributable to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions that has occurred over the past decades. Reducing these emissions will prevent even greater deterioration of the temperature and an increase in extreme weather events. You can contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by doing the following:

  • Use public transit, carpool, get around by bike or on foot
  • Buy small cars that consume less gas and require fewer raw materials to manufacture and function
  • Buy local products, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions caused by the transportation of goods, etc.

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Last update: February 1, 2017


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