Extreme heat causes nearly 500 deaths per year in Quebec, report finds

Extreme heat has a major impact on Quebec’s health-care system, says a new report published by the National Institute for Scientific Research that sheds light on various heat-related mortality and morbidity statistics in the province

The INRS findings, published Wednesday, reveals high temperatures during the months of May to September in Quebec are linked to an estimated 470 deaths, 225 hospitalizations, 36,000 ER visits and 7,200 ambulance trips.

The study says the province’s 811 Info-Santé health line also deals with a surge in calls, reporting an estimated 15,000 heat-related calls.

The report says the burden on the health-care system falls on five per cent of the hottest days during May to September. An estimated 200 deaths, 170 hospitalizations, 6,200 ER visits, 1,500 ambulance trips and 3,300 calls to Info-Santé are due to the heat during that time period.

Extreme heat waves are defined as high temperatures that have a statistically significant effect on health and last at least three consecutive days.

“Knowing that extreme heat will be amplified by climate change, our team hopes that these results will lead to more action to better protect the Quebec population against the effects of heat,” wrote the report’s author, Jérémie Boudreault.“Severe heat also generates direct costs for our system, which finds itself stretched to the limit.”

Canadian scientists have warned that the county’s future includes longer and more intense summer heat waves, which can also directly impact people’s mental health, with reports pointing to “crime waves” that see an increase in violence.

According to environmental scientist Ian Mauro, “When we’re in that hot, oppressive heat, it can spur all kinds of social and mental health responses that can lead to unhealthy outcomes. Heat is just a risk multiplier.”

Wednesday marked the second consecutive day of “dangerously hot and humid” weather conditions slamming southern Quebec and Ontario, with daytime highs expected to hit between 30 C and 35 C with humidex values of 40 to 45, according to Environment Canada.

The weather agency issued a warning Monday saying the multi-day heat event is expected to last until Thursday or Friday, adding that there will be “little relief” through the overnight as lows are expected to be 20 C to 23 C with humidex values of 26 to 30.

Health officials advise people to look out for heat-related illness such as swelling, rash, cramps, fainting, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and the worsening of some health conditions.

Those more vulnerable and at risk are seniors, infants and young children, pregnant people, people with physical and/or mental illnesses, people with disabilities or mobility issues and people who are isolated. Environment Canada warns you should never leave people, particularly children or pets, inside a parked vehicle.

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