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Hot weather warnings: What to remember

Claire Gagne | posted Tuesday, Jun 16th, 2015

Strong Sun

The UV Index is a measure of the intensity of the sun’s rays. Environment Canada (weather.gc.ca) forecasts the highest level of UV for the day, which you can expect around midday. If the UV Index is between three and five, simply slather on the sunscreen and head outdoors. But if the forecasted UV Index for the day is six or higher, plan your outdoor activities for before 11 a.m. or after 4 p.m., as the sun will be less intense. Check The Weather Network (theweathernetwork.com or download the app) for current readings, and be especially careful when the UV Index is eight or higher, as skin can burn very quickly. (Though rare in Canada, a UV Index of 11 or higher can cause skin to burn within minutes!) “Young kids can get bad sunburns before you even realize there’s a problem,” says Michael Dickinson, a paediatrician in Miramichi, NB.

Bad Air

The Air Quality Health Index tells us how much pollution is outside on a scale of one to 10, and is more likely to affect people in large cities, near industry or close to areas prone to forest fires. When pollution is high—at seven or above—young kids and people with asthma or heart conditions should limit strenuous outdoor activity, according to Health Canada. That doesn’t mean you can’t go outside at all—just use Environment Canada’s hourly air quality readings and next-day forecasts to plan. Keep activities low-key and monitor children closely. “If your child is getting tired more easily than normal, or if she’s coughing, wheezing or seems to be working harder to breathe, those are signs of respiratory trouble because of the pollution, and you should bring her indoors,” says Dickinson. 

Heat Waves

The definition of extreme heat varies by where you live, but generally, a heat warning is issued when it’s deemed the temperature increases the potential for health problems such as heatstroke and dehydration, which can be fatal. All children can be affected by heat, but it’s most dangerous for infants, young children and people with asthma or heart disease, says Dickinson. It’s best to plan a movie day or hit an indoor playground when a heat alert is issued.


In warmer months, trees, grasses and weeds procreate by releasing tiny grains of pollen, which are carried by the wind. The Weather Network tells us how much and what kind of pollen is floating around. Pollen is high on dry, windy days, is released in the morning and typically peaks in urban areas midday. “Pollen counts are particularly important if you’re prone to allergies and asthma,” says Dickinson, so monitor the pollen forecast and plan your outdoor time for when counts are low. If your allergic child will be outdoors when pollen is high, speak to your doctor about giving him an antihistamine before he goes out.


A version of this article appeared in our June 2015 issue with the headline “Weather warnings,” p. 24.

One Time Flu Shot

Leah Sarich | posted Wednesday, Jun 10th, 2015


We start talking about getting your flu shot every autumn as the best way to protect yourself from influenza. And there’s no question that’s the case. But what if you could get one flu shot and it would protect you for a decade, or even the rest of your life?

A new study has come out suggesting researchers are closer than ever to this reality. Researchers in Asia tracked patients infected with a new bird flu back in 2013 from the time they entered the hospital to the time they left or died. And the results are startling. They basically discovered a new way our bodies fight the flu.

Researchers here at the University of Calgary and around the world are very excited about this discovery. Craig Jenne, Assistant Professor of Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases at U of C, says this research could lead to a whole new way of creating an influenza vaccine. He explains currently researchers focus on making antibodies to the flu virus which neutralize it and prevent it from infecting our cells. This new part of the immune system is recognizing infected cells and killing them before they can spread.

The key is the coating of the virus. This outer layer always changes which is why researchers have had to guess what to put into our flu vaccine. But now researchers understand the virus can’t change what’s inside of it, so if researchers can harness this unchanging part of the virus, then they could create a vaccine that could last for years.

Jenne speculates this new type of flu vaccine would require injecting the population with a live virus, not a dead one like what is currently used. He says it would be similar to the measles vaccine which is a weak virus that infects a few cells triggering our immune response.

But imagine the impact of a one-time flu shot. Fewer hospitalizations and far fewer deaths. And Jenne says this new flu vaccine is not decades away, he says it is on the horizon.

For more information visit the Nature Communications article.

Welcome to the Cityline 21-day boot camp!

Dr. Joey Shulman | posted Tuesday, Jun 9th, 2015

Welcome to the Cityline 21-day boot camp! Over the next 21 days, I will be providing you with meal plans that are filled with detoxifying foods, foods that are anti-inflammatory and meal plans that are delicious and nutrient dense. Each day, you will also be provided with a health tip and a superfood suggestion. My goal is to keep this plan super simple, so you can follow along easily and enjoy. Trust me, having a plan and direction always makes your health goals easier to obtain!

Why 21 days?

After being in practice for over a decade, I can tell you 21 days is definitely enough time to make a permanent change in your health and create new behavioral patterns.

Here are some of the benefits of my 21-day boot camp.

  • Improved energy and decreased “brain fog”
  • Improved mood
  • Cessation of sugar, carbohydrate or salt cravings
  • Optimized digestion and reduced feelings of bloating
  • Improved sleep
  • Weight loss

So, enjoy the suggestions over the next 21 days. If you do find a meal or snack you really enjoy, feel free to repeat it over and over again. (I myself am a creature of habit and find eating in routine and repetition ideal for health).

For my daily meal plans and health posts, visit the Cityline 21-day boot camp page or see the list below. You can also follow me on Instagram or Twitter and watch for the hashtag #21daybootcamp.

Share your journey and join the conversation on the Cityline Facebook page.

Wishing you best health,
Dr. Joey

Daily meal plans

All meal plans include one serving size unless noted. Optimal water intake per day is two litres. Alcohol intake is not reviewed on this plan. I typically recommend a maximum of two to four drinks per week.

For more on daily meal plans, check it out here.

Allergies and Kids

Leah Sarich | posted Monday, Jun 8th, 2015


Allergy season is upon us, but how do you know if your child has a summer cold or hayfever? It’s an important distinction to make so parents, like a doctor, can make the right diagnosis and use the right treatment to help their child feel better and get back to their normal activities.

I spoke with Allergist Dr. Joel Doctor and he says first off, allergies don’t really peak in children until the early teen years. Young children can develop hayfever but they don’t usually show symptoms under 4 years of age. It simply takes a few years of exposure to pollen, for example, for their allergy-prone immune systems to start to develop antibodies against that pollen trigger.

So, if the child is a bit older, and there’s a family history of hayfever and symptoms start and finish around the allergy season… there’s a good chance your child is dealing with seasonal allergies. But the telltale sign of allergy, says Dr. Doctor, is itch. If the child is complaining of itchy, watery eyes, and an itchy nose… you’re looking at hayfever.

Treatment for hayfever is quite straightforward. Dr. Doctor says if the symptoms are relatively mild over the counter antihistamines can be taken as needed. If the symptoms are a bit more severe then parents should talk to the family doctor about using prescription strength nasal sprays and eye drops. And these should be used consistently throughout the allergy season for the best relief. If your child is still suffering, then ask your family doctor for a referral to an Allergist. This specialist can then talk to you about desensitization options that include a pill that goes under the tongue or injections. But note that both of these options are a big commitment.

Dr. Doctor also recommends trigger avoidance. So, if it’s a hot, dry and windy day and the pollen count is high, perhaps that’s a day to take your child to a movie and not on a hike. Dr. Doctor says check pollen counts online to help you plan your day.

The goal says Dr. Doctor is to help your child with hayfever manage their symptoms so they can get back to being a kid.

Sun Safety – Eyes

Leah Sarich | posted Thursday, Jun 4th, 2015

120px-2008-07-27_Sunglasses (1)

It’s Sun Awareness Week. In my previous post we looked at protecting your skin from the sun’s damaging rays. Today, we look at protecting your eyes.

Optometrist Dr. Farrah Sunderji says wearing sunglasses is like wearing sunscreen for your eyes. She explains that 80 percent of UV damage occurs before the age of 18, so wearing sunglasses should start in infancy!! Parents: keep trying! If we don’t wear sunglasses Dr. Sunderji explains we leave ourselves at risk overtime for macular degeneration and cataracts which can lead to blindness. In addition, 5 to 10 percent of all skin cancers occur on the skin in and around the eye. So we need sunglasses to keep out all the UV radiation.

Dr. Sunderji says look for sunglasses with 99-100 UV protection. If you don’t have this protection, you’re actually doing more harm than good because dark lenses allow the pupil to dilate letting in more UV light. And just like when it comes to your skin, UV damage is cumulative so it happens slowly over time. That’s why it’s important to wear sun protection from an early age and all year round.

Dr. Sunderji also recommends talking to your optometrist at your annual visit about what kind of sunglasses you should use depending on your lifestyle. There are four different kinds of lenses and there are various types of coatings too. Not only do these options helps prevent UV damage, they can also reduce eye strain, eye fatigue and prevent headaches.

For more information about sun safety and your eyes visit this website. 

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