2016 Heat-Related Illness Indicator Report

Purpose of the Health Indicator Report

The purpose of this health indicator report is to provide information on the level of public awareness, among adults aged 18 and over living in Halton Region, of heat-related illness risk in certain population groups. Some of the groups of people at a greater risk for heat-related illness include older adults, infants and young children, people taking medications for mental health conditions such as antidepressants, people with chronic illnesses, and people with lower incomes.1 Additionally, the report provides information on the level of access to protective equipment (i.e. air conditioning) and adoption of protective behaviours during very hot days in the summer.

Background

Heat-related illness occurs when a person’s body temperature rises quickly and sweating is not enough to cool the body down. Symptoms of heat-related illness include dizziness or fainting, nausea or vomiting, headache, rapid breathing and heartbeat, extreme thirst, and decreased urination with dark yellow urine. There are many ways to prevent heat-related illness, including using a fan or air conditioner, drinking plenty of cool water, using a hat or umbrella to avoid sun exposure, rescheduling outdoor activities, limiting use of the oven, closing blinds or curtains, wearing loose fitting and light coloured clothing, and cooling off with a wet towel, bath or cool shower. For more information visit Halton.ca/heat.

This health indicator report uses data from the Rapid Risk Factor Surveillance System (RRFSS).

Key Findings

Awareness

Overall Findings

  • In 2016, 83% of Halton adults believed that heat-related illness can be prevented, 3% did not believe it can be prevented and 13% did not know whether it can be prevented.

Sex

  • In 2016, there was no statistically significant difference by sex in the percentage of Halton adults who believed that heat-related illness can be prevented.

Age

  • In 2016, the percentage of Halton adults who believed that heat-related illness can be prevented decreased as age increased. This difference was statistically significant when comparing adults aged 65+ to each of the other age groups.

Municipality

  • In 2016, there were no statistically significant differences by municipality in the percentage of Halton adults who believed that heat-related illness can be prevented.

Income

  • In 2016, the percentage of Halton adults who believed that heat-related illness can be prevented increased as income increased. This difference was statistically significant when comparing adults in the high income group to adults in the low income group.

Education

  • In 2016, the percentage of Halton adults who believed that heat-related illness can be prevented was higher among those who were post-secondary graduates compared to those who were not post-secondary graduates. This difference was statistically significant.

Awareness of High Risk Populations

  • In 2016, Halton adults reported on whether they believed the following populations were at greater risk of heat-related illness:
    • 78% believed that people with chronic illnesses are at a greater risk of heat-related illness compared to those without chronic illnesses
    • 75% believed that infants and young children are at a greater risk of heat-related illness compared to adults
    • 58% believed that people with low incomes are at a greater risk of heat-related illness compared to people with high incomes, and
    • 47% believed that people taking medications for mental health conditions are at a greater risk of heat-related illness compared to those who are not taking medications for mental health conditions

Protective Behaviours

  • In 2016, Halton adults reported always or often participating in the following recommended behaviours on very hot days in the summer to protect themselves from heat-related illness:
    • 79% drank more water than usual
    • 77% closed curtains or blinds
    • 75% wore loose fitting and light coloured clothing
    • 72% spent time in an air conditioned environment
    • 49% limited the use of their oven
    • 40% shaded themselves using a hat or umbrella
    • 38% rescheduled outdoor activities
    • 26% cooled off with a wet towel, bath, or cool shower
    • 25% visited older or sick neighbors, friends, or family members

Protective Equipment

  • In 2016, 96% of Halton adults reported having an air conditioner in their home, and 3% reported that they did not have an air conditioner, but had a portable or ceiling fan in their home. It was not possible to report on the percentage of residents who did not have either an air conditioner or a fan due to small sample size.