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Heat wave has vulnerable Maritimers questioning how to keep cool

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With temperatures set to be in the mid to high 20s all week, Maritimers are hunkering down. The warm weather is bringing worry to some who don't have any way to beat the heat.

"The extreme ends of the age distribution are probably the most vulnerable, from the heat perspective,” said Daniel Rainham, an environmental epidemiologist at Dalhousie University. “Young infants who have not developed how their body can thermoregulate effectively.”

He adds that people are adapting to climate change, but not fast enough.

"People are taking more steps to protect themselves at home, by installing heat pumps and air conditioning, modifying their work activities,” Rainham said.

Then there are those who are not able to prepare for heat waves.

The New Brunswick Senior Citizens Federation thinks cooling and warming centres should be made available in rural areas for seniors who don't have air conditioning.

"There are people, especially in the rural areas, that have no air conditioning and have no place to go to cool off – in the cities it's a bit more available,” said Alphonse Dionne, former president or the New Brunswick Senior Citizens Federation. “So we passed a resolution at our AGM on this issue. We feel that the government should be making funds available for people who want to establish centres.”

People are not only warned to keep their pets out of hot vehicles, but to watch for signs of overheating.

"They'll start panting more, they're going to be lethargic. Sometimes you'll see dogs vomiting, just getting weaker in general,” said Dr. Mike Legge, a veterinarian at South Paw clinic in Fredericton. “It can happen very quickly, is the biggest thing. Sometimes people are surprised by how quick it can happen.”

“Pets don't know how to take it easy when it's really hot out and all of a sudden it's past the point where they can recover quickly,” he added.

In Halifax, a steady stream of clients started congregating at Souls Harbour Rescue Mission on Monday morning.

Guaranteed a good meal and clothing, if they want it, the less fortunate in the city are well aware there's no judgement at the facility on Cunard Street.

Downstairs, a portable air conditioner kept the temperature bearable. Co-founder Michelle Porter also distributed some brightly coloured holiday candy on pre-set lunch tables.

It was Christmas in July at Souls Harbour, although it didn’t feel like it.

"They're hot. They're very hot," said Porter with a laugh, but she quickly turned serious.

"My biggest thing is, if somebody looks like they're in distress, get them some water. Get them to a cold place," she said.

The event included gift bags for clients and regulars, like Morris Kowluk, who find themselves feeling grateful for what they have.

"In my room, I have a nice breeze blowing in, as far as I'm concerned," says Kowluk. "But I feel concerned about homeless people. People that don't have proper accommodation."

Maritime beaches and parks were especially busy over the hot weekend, but those with more limited options sometimes have to wait for help to come to them.

Although officially closed for camping, a handful of people remain in a small urban park, telling CTV News off-camera that the last few days have been challenging.

One said the only reason she was still there was because no one had been around to offer alternative arrangements.

"This kind of hot weather is really hard, especially on seniors", says Bill Van Gorder, Chief Policy Officer for the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, which is urging people to regularly check in on the elderly, and shuttle them to cooler places, if necessary.

"Most places don't have air conditioning, because, 25 years ago, we didn't need air conditioning here in Nova Scotia," said Van Gorder.

People in the Maritimes are reminded to be especially mindful of the heat, to seek shade and air conditioning where possible, stay hydrated, and look out for others who may need assistance during the hot weather. 

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