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Don't leave kids alone in cars or pools during Montreal heat wave: health officials


With a heat wave sweeping the Greater Montreal area this week, the Montreal Children's Hospital (MCH) is reminding parents and guardians that it is never acceptable to leave a child in a car.

"Every summer, the MCH emergency department treats more than 4,000 children and teens with assorted traumatic injuries, the majority of which are preventable," the hospital states.

Montreal public health officials held a news conference Tuesday afternoon urging Montrealers to share the collective responsibility of looking in on loved ones and neighbours, and especially anyone living alone.

"We have to take care of people who are most at risk," said Dr. David Kaiser, deputy medical director at Montreal public health. "Our message is collective responsibility, reaching out and taking care of each other."

Kaiser also said outdoor workers should pay special attention to their health by taking more breaks, getting out of the heat and ensuring they're drinking enough water.

"Make certain that people are well hydrated," said Dr. Mitch Shulman, an emergency medicine specialist. "Don't forget your pets. Don't forget little children who really don't realize they need to be protected. The elderly, people with underlying heart or lung or kidney problems who are on certain medications; all of us are at risk but some people are at more risk than others."

With humidex values expected to exceed 40 for the next three days, the Montreal Children's Hospital points out that cars heat up quickly and leaving a window ajar does little to impact the temperature.

"On a 35 degree Celsius day, the air temperature in a previously air-conditioned small car exceeded 50 C within 20 minutes and the temperature soared to 65.5 C within 40 minutes," the hospital said pointing to a study funded by General Motors of Canada.

Infants and children under four years old are among those at greatest risk for heat-related illness, the hospital adds.

"When left in a hot vehicle, a young child's body temperature may increase from three to five times as fast as an adult," the MCH notes.

On Tuesday, Montreal public health called more than 65,000 households with an automated message with tips on staying safe during the heatwave, including wearing light clothing and reducing physical activity. 

City of Montreal spokesperson Beatrice Saulnier-Yelle told CTV News that the calls with safety advice about the heat are targeting buildings where vulnerable people, including the elderly, may live. The robocalls are only to landlines and are being made throughout the city and are a combined effort of the Montreal police, the fire department, and Montreal public health.

High body temperatures can cause grave injury or lead to death. The hospital offers a few pieces of advice:

  • Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, even if the windows are partially open.
  • Do not let your children play in an unattended vehicle.
  • Make a habit of looking in the vehicle, front and back, before locking the door and walking away.
  • Make sure your childcare provider knows to call you if your child has not been dropped off at their usual time.
  • Always place an item (such as a purse) in the backseat so you have to open the door each time you leave the vehicle.
  • Keep a large stuffed animal in your child's car seat when it is not occupied. When your child is in the car, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat.
  • When you arrive at your destination, avoid any distractions, including talking on the phone or texting.

If you see a child alone in a vehicle, call the police.

If they are in distress due to the heat, get them out as quickly as possible and call 911 immediately.

Pool safety

In Quebec, one child a day arrives in an emergency room for drowning or near-drowning during the summer, according to the Montreal Children's Hospital.

In the last 30 years, the MCH trauma centre says it has seen more than 400 drownings and near-drownings.

Data show that 73 per cent of the incidents occurred in residential pools, park pools, aquatic centres and water parks.

Some ways to prevent drowning hazards:

  • Constant adult supervision: undistracted and attentive surveillance of children, meaning no screens, books, chatting or drinking alcohol;
  • The supervising adult should be within arm's reach of anyone with weak swimming skills;
  • Swimming lessons are encouraged;
  • CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) training is recommended;
  • Never swim alone, regardless of age;
  • Know the swimming skill level of those around you.

Staying cool

The Quebec Health Ministry is asking people to take several precautions during the heat wave:

  • Drink six to eight glasses of water a day before feeling thirsty;
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages or caffeine;
  • Spend at least two hours a day in an air-conditioned or cool place;
  • Take at least one cool shower or bath or cool your skin with wet towels;
  • Limit physical activity;
  • Wear light clothes.

Signs of heat illness include swelling, rash, cramps, fainting, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and the worsening of some health conditions.

"Reduce your heat risk," Environment and Climate Change Canada notes. "Schedule outdoor activities during the coolest parts of the day."

Anyone with health-related questions is encouraged to call Info-Santé at 811.

In case of emergency, call 911.

The agency says the heat and humidity should begin to ease by Friday. Top Stories

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