Ottawa Public Health

September 8, 2017
by bramblesas

Rediscover your roots with our Community Food Advisors!

Root vegetables have been a popular food for centuries. This is due to their long growing season, long shelf life, and ability to nourish the soil as well as people. These qualities make them the perfect food for our Canadian climate. Root vegetables are high in fibre and contain many important nutrients. They are very versatile and can be used in several recipes –  even desserts! Affordable and locally grown, root vegetables have so much to offer.

Every year the Community Food Advisors (CFA) volunteers show new ways to prepare locally grown produce at many of Ottawa’s local markets. They also provide the public with information about healthy eating and food safety. This year the CFAs will be demonstrating new ways to prepare three root vegetables: beets, carrots and rutabaga.


Beet hummus, pita bread and ingredients on wooden background

Beets are known by the unique dark red and purple colour of the root, yet, the green leaves can be eaten too! Ontario grown beets are available almost all year long (except for May and June). They come in a variety of colours ranging from red and golden yellow to pink and white stripped. Store beet roots in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks and the leaves for 3 to 5 days. At the markets, CFAs will be showing how to make this colourful vegetable into a Beet Hummus.



Healthy eating carrot soup meal with carrots in cup

Carrots are one of the most well-known root vegetables. They contain plenty of beta-carotene, which gives them their bright orange colour. Ontario grown carrots are available almost all year long (except for June). Most of the nutrients in carrots are found just below the skin. Instead of peeling them, rinse and scrub with a vegetable brush to enjoy all the nutrients they have to offer. Store carrots in your refrigerator crisper for 3 to 4 weeks. This year, CFAs will be offering samples of a Creamy Carrot Soup that can be served either hot or cold!



freshly harvested spring turnip (Brassica rapa) on a white background

Rutabaga is known for being well-suited for northern climates. That’s why Ontario grown rutabaga is available all year long! Rutabagas have a brownish peel that is usually covered with a wax coating to help keep them fresh longer. Store rutabaga in either a cool, dry place or in the refrigerator. At the markets, CFAs will be showing how this root vegetable can be made into a dessert! They will be offering samples of a Rutabaga Spice Cake.


Want to learn more about other fresh produce you buy at the markets? Find out how to store fruits and vegetables, and how to wash them to ensure they taste great and are safe to eat.

Join CFA volunteers this summer to rediscover your roots and taste delicious new recipes! Visit our website for information on market dates and locations.

August 18, 2017
by OPH

Why do we have a minimum legal age for substances?

By: Jessica Brett, Public Health Nurse

Setting a minimum legal age to buy and use substances, like alcohol, tobacco and soon cannabis, helps to protect youth from the harms of substance use and prevent access.

In Ontario, the minimum age to buy alcohol is 19 years old. As the legalization of cannabis approaches, there is a lot of debate about what the minimum age should be.

Have you noticed the debate over the minimum age? We’re legally considered adults by age 18 and we can make our own decisions, right?

There are benefits to having a minimum age to buy and use substances. Can I share with you how it makes sense to have a minimum age for cannabis?

I’m 24 years old. Turns out my brain, and your kids, continues to grow and develop until we are around 25 years old. During the teen years the “thinking brain”, which controls decision making, is still maturing.

If a teen uses cannabis while the thinking brain is growing, it may not develop normally. This is because the chemical in cannabis, THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), hi-jacks the normal system. That causes the teen to use their “emotional brain” instead of the thinking brain, which causes poor decision making. These changes to the brain may be irreversible.

The same goes for alcohol… the teen brain is still maturing. That explains why youth can act impulsively and have a hard time setting limits on how much they drink. Alcohol effects the brain by altering decision making, problem solving abilities and slowing reflexes, so your teen’s ability to make decisions are even more affected when they drink.

Here is what you need to know:

Drinking young + more often = a risk of future problems

So my main point is: setting a minimum legal age helps to protect youth from these harms.

A higher minimum age is shown to:

  • Lower the overall number of teens who drink alcohol
  • Lower alcohol-related car crashes and injuries
  • Lower the chance your teen will get drugs from friends

Parents are teens first line of defence against drugs.

Talk with your teen about why there is a minimum age for alcohol, tobacco and soon, cannabis.  And how using early can affect how they grow and develop. As a parent, you can have a bigger influence on your child than you may think.

Here are some resources to start the conversation:

August 4, 2017
by OPH

Mosquitoes LOVE Standing Water – Let’s get rid of it!

You don’t need to look past your full bottle of sunscreen to know that it has been a very wet and rainy summer.

While few of us are  celebrating the near- record rainfall, it’s been a prime season for mosquitoes. Mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water and love to do so around your home – in recycle bins, the top of pool covers, bird baths and anywhere else a little bit of water can pool.

Certain types of infected mosquitoes, especially the northern house mosquito, can spread the West Nile virus (WNV) when biting humans.

Most people will not develop any symptoms if infected with WNV, but some may experience flu-like symptoms.  

Symptoms may include:

  • Flu-like symptoms, which can include, fever, frontal headache, muscle aches and occasionally a skin rash;
  • Additional symptoms such as neck stiffness, muscle weakness, stupor, disorientation and coma.

After a rainfall, help stop mosquitoes from breeding – and lower the risk of WNV – by draining any standing water around your house, including even small amounts of water in small containers.

  • Empty water from flower pots, pet dishes, pool covers, buckets and barrels
  • Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use
  • Clean clogged eavestroughs regularly
  • Remove unused items, such as tires that can collect water
  • Change the water in wading pools, bird baths, pet bowls at least once a week
  • Cover all access points to rain barrels with tight-fitting screens
  • Use an aerator in garden ponds to keep surface water moving; this will only work if all parts of the water move
  • Consider stocking your garden pond with fish that eat mosquito larvae

Prevent mosquito bites:

  • Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and socks
  • Wear light-coloured clothing; mosquitoes are attracted to dark colours
  • Place mosquito netting over infant carriers
  • Stay indoors between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active and avoid shady, bushy or wooded areas at any time
  • Screen all windows and doors
  • Use an insect repellent that has DEET or icaridin. Always read and follow label directions
  • Seek medical attention if you develop symptoms of WNV

If you have a backyard catch basin on your property and would like to have it appropriately treated for WNV, please contact OPH.

To learn more about Ottawa Public Health’s WNV prevention program, visit or call us at 613-580-6744

July 24, 2017
by bramblesas

Self-Care Day

“I feel guilty taking time for myself, what helped was remembering that I’m a person too with needs and with limits.” Pierre, Caregiver



Taking care of a person living with mental illness or experiencing mental health challenges can be both rewarding and stressful.  As a mental health caregiver you will learn new skills and build a stronger relationship with the person – child, youth, adult, or older adult you care for. As you take on new responsibilities, it is important to take care of yourself during this demanding time.  Just as in the pre-flight instructions, you should put on your own oxygen mask before helping another person put on theirs – mental health caregivers need to take care of themselves before they can take care of someone else.

Stress is a natural part of life, but if not managed well, it can lead to your own health challenges. Mental health caregivers can have a tendency to focus on the person they care for more than themselves, putting themselves as a second priority – this is completely natural. The most important thing to remember as a caregiver is to take care of YOU. Actions we take to take care of our health and wellbeing are known as self-care.



Why is it so easy to forget about your own self-care?  Some common barriers include:

  • Your own attitudes and beliefs: “I’m being selfish if I sleep in late today.”
  • Being afraid of what you need: “I’m feeling over-worked, I need time off but can’t take leave.
  • Being afraid or not knowing where or how to ask for help: “I don’t want to bother them, they have their own problems.
  • Wanting to care and show your affections in a selfless way (common with family caregivers): “He’s my son, he’s my priority.

Each caregiver’s experience is unique; from the person they care for to their specific responsibilities, no two caregivers are the same. Some caregivers provide continuous support for a family member who lives in their home, while others may help someone with occasional periods of mental distress. Whether you are providing long-term support or short-term care, your role is important and valued.

When thinking about your own mental health or the mental health of a loved one, it is important to recognize that good mental health is about living well and feeling capable despite challenges. People who live with mental illness can, and do, thrive just as people without a mental illness may experience poor mental health.

For example, taking time to reflect on “where you’re at” can be helpful to your self-care.  This can include thinking about what you are feeling, where are you feeling it in your body, what helps you feel positive or negative, what is going well, what could have gone better and also identifying the help you need.  It is normal to have lots of different feelings and they are not right or wrong – they are your own.  Let yourself feel your emotions and try to not judge them but rather accept them.  Acceptance will let you confront these feelings and what they mean to you, how they affect your actions and even affect the individual you care for.

The Mental Health Caregiver Guide, which was created to help you care for yourself and your own mental health while recognizing the responsibilities you have caring for someone else be it a child, youth, adult, or older adult. You will find practical tips and positive coping strategies to add to your existing “toolbox”. Use these tools to help support you and the person you care for along this journey.  You may also wish to view a video developed by Ottawa Public Health as part of the have THAT talk campaign, which focuses on the Caregiver.

Source: Ottawa Public Health; Canadian Mental Health Association; Canadian Public Health Association; Mental Illness Caregivers Association; Military Family Services. Mental Health Caregiver Guide: A guide for caregivers of persons living with mental illness or experiencing mental health challenges.  Ottawa, ON: Ottawa Public Health; 2016.

July 7, 2017
by OPH

Young drivers & safer driving

Road crashes continue to be a leading cause of death among teenagers. In 2014, almost 1 in 5 Ottawa high school students reported riding in a vehicle with an intoxicated driver at least once in the past year.

Driving is a privilege, not a right.

As a parent, you can play a huge role in your teen’s attitudes and behaviours towards alcohol:

  • Be a role model – your behaviour influences your teen’s behaviour.
  • Be informed – share the facts with your teen.

Driving requires attention and judgement. Teen brains are still developing until the mid 20’s – alcohol can harm the way the body and brain develop, impacting these skills. Delaying drinking until the legal age is safest.

Novice and young drivers’ blood-alcohol level must be zero in Ontario.
To help young drivers stay safe on the road, all drivers 21 years of age and under must not drive if they have been drinking alcohol. This includes novice drivers with G1 or G2 licence regardless of age. These restrictions are effective at reducing drinking and driving and fatalities with youth.

Passengers can make safe choices too. Share these safety tips with your teen:

  • Do not ride with an intoxicated driver
  • Do not distract the driver
  • Always plan a safe ride

Ottawa Public Health asked “When does alcohol become a community problem?”

“Adults seem aware of the risks, youth don’t.” – 19 to 24 years

“I understand if your intoxicated beyond having 3 … last time I checked your vision isn’t affected after one drink it take a lot more than that to effect you”- 19 to 24 years

What do you think our community can do?

“More awareness. Or make a zero tolerance while driving. That would be a way to decrease so you don’t have that “gray area”- 19 to 24 years

“Parenting skills is important and setting consequences… the greater community has to be willing to keep an eye out for everyone’s youth. … need to learn other ways to cope with stress.” – 45 years and older

“If we addressed the binge-drinking problem, drunk driving would be less of an issue.” – 25 to 44 years

Check out these resources to start the conversation about alcohol, mental health, and peer pressure:

For more facts, figures and local perspectives on alcohol in Ottawa, read the full Status of Alcohol in Ottawa report.

Ottawa Public Health has more information on alcohol and links where to get help.

Leave a comment! #LetsTalkAlcohol

Written by:  Ginny Warner, Project Officer

June 21, 2017
by OPH

Here’s to a safe and healthy Canada Day!


These tips will help keep you safe and healthy during your stay in the nation’s Capital for Canada’s 150th Anniversary!



Party Safe #MakeItUnforgettable

Whether you’re going out for a drink or plan to party all night long, know these party safe tips before going out:

Overdoses can happen to anyone.

  • Never use alone – stay with friends you trust and keep an eye on each other
  • Go slow –  if you are using alcohol or a new substance and don’t use more than one substance at the same event
  • Know –  the signs of an overdose and call 911 – an overdose is always a medical emergency
  • Carry naloxone – it is a medication that can temporarily reverse an opioid overdose
  • If you witness an overdose, call 911 immediately. Administer first aid, give naloxone and if you are on festival grounds, send someone to get festival medical staff.

More information can be found here at: 

Find tips to reduce your risk from Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines or try the Check Your Drinking Quiz 

3 Tips on How to Say No to a Drink

Don’t be afraid to say if you feel unsafe or don’t feel well.
If you have been sexually assaulted or experienced abuse, help is available. 

Free Para Transpo and OC Transpo service will be in effect until the end of the service day at 5 a.m.

Before you check out the MENU, check out the KITCHEN! Find inspection results of food premises at:

To report a concern about a food vendor call Ottawa Public Health at 613-580-6744 or call 3-1-1 or write to us at

Food Safety Tips On-The-Go

  • Always wash your hands before eating and before and after handling food.
  • Scrub your fruits and vegetables with cold running water before eating or cutting into them.
  • Keep cold foods cold at four degrees Celsius or less.
  • Keep food safe by packing frozen ice packs. If perishable foods have been stored at room temperature for more than two hours, throw them out.
  • Use insulated bags or coolers and store them away from the sun and other heat sources.

Ottawa is Smoke-Free
There is no safe level of secondhand smoke…even outdoors.
Smoking,including the use of water pipes, is not allowed indoors in public places or outdoors.

This includes:

  • All City property, including parks, playgrounds, beaches, and sports fields.
  • All bar and restaurant patios.
  • All school and hospital properties.

Summers in Ottawa can be hot, hot, hot! Be prepared and take precautions:

  • Check the weather daily for the UV index and air quality information
  • Stay hydrated while taking part in activities outdoors – seek shade to cool off
  • Dress appropriately for hot days and cooler nights – remember sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat and broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher

Watch for signs and symptoms of heat related illness :

  • Rapid breathing
  • Weakness, dizziness or fainting
  • More fatigue than usual
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea or vomiting

You can help someone with heat-related illness by doing these things:

  • Move the person to a cooler place
  • Call for help as necessary
  • Take extra clothing off the person
  • Cool the person with lukewarm water, by sponging or bathing
  • Give the person sips of cool water, not ice cold water.
  • Call 9-1-1 if you suspect the person has heat stroke ( if they are not sweating and have a temperature over 40 C).

Protect yourself from ticks and mosquitos. Ticks can carry Lyme Disease and mosquitos can carry West Nile Virus.

Reduce your risk:
Apply a Health Canada approved mosquito repellant containing DEET to exposed skin, as well as your clothing.

  • Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, shoes, and socks to cover any exposed skin.
  • Tuck your pants into your socks.
  • Mosquitoes are attracted to darker colours and can bite through thin clothing.
  • Wearing light coloured clothing will help with mosquitos, and also ensure that ticks are easier to spot.
  • Stick to marked trails when hiking in the woods or walking in long grass.
  • Mosquitoes are most active between dusk and dawn. Ensure that you take extra care to use repellent and protective clothing during these times

Do a “full body check” for ticks. Also check your children and your pets. Pay attention to your toes, knees, groin, armpits and scalp.

If you find a tick, remove it as soon as possible. The longer a tick is attached to your body, the greater the risk of getting Lyme disease. Contact your doctor if a tick has been attached to you for 24 or more hours, or if you are unsure of how long the tick has been attached. Your doctor will then determine the best course of treatment. If the tick was attached to you for less than 24 hours and the tick’s body doesn’t appear to be swollen from feeding, or if you removed a tick and more than 72 hours have passed, be aware of the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease ( for the next 30 days.

Ottawa has four public beaches and many outdoor and indoor pools,wading pools and splash pads to enjoy.

Public beach water is tested daily and results are shared online. Visit for beach locations, water testing results and hours of operation for on-duty lifeguards.

  • Always keep children within arm’s reach, in and around water.
  • Ensure that children and weaker swimmers wear lifejackets or personal flotation devices (PFD) in and around water.
  • Supervise and swim with children only when free of alcohol, drugs and distractions. Know what to do in an emergency, including CPR and calling 9-1-1

In Ottawa, gonorrhea, chlamydia and infectious syphilis have been increasing and many cases go undiagnosed.

Condoms can help prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) & unintended pregnancies. Sex without a condom is the top risk factor in people diagnosed with an STI.

Go to to find out where you can access free condoms across the city.

June 12, 2017
by OPH

#MakeItUnforgettable #Festivals2017

#PartySafe while celebrating throughout the summer festival season.

#MakeItUnforgettable for the right reasons.

Know the facts about opioids

  • Illicit fentanyl is becoming more common in street drugs.
  • Anything can be cut with fentanyl. This means you never know what is in the illicit or street drugs you are taking.
  • Both prescription opioids and illicit opioids can cause a life threatening overdose.
  • During an overdose, the brain can no longer control basic life functions like breathing
  • Don’t be afraid to call 9-1-1 for help
  • Opioids, including fentanyl, are a family of drugs often used to treat pain.
  • Opioids are depressant drugs, which means they slow down the part of the brain that controls breathing.

Fentanyl is an opioid

  • Prescription fentanyl is about 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine.
  • Many people think prescription drugs are less harmful than illicit drugs but they can also cause an overdose when not taken as directed.
  • Opioids are depressant drugs, which means they slow down the part of the brain that controls breathing.

Illicit or non-prescription fentanyl is more toxic than prescription fentanyl.

  • Illicit fentanyl is made illegally, often as a powder.
  • Illicit fentanyl has been found in Ottawa.
  • There is no way of knowing what else is in it or how toxic it is.
  • A very small amount of the powder, like the size of 2 grains of salt, can kill someone.
  • Fentanyl has been found mixed with other drugs, like heroin, cocaine or crack.
  • Fentanyl is also being pressed into counterfeit pills and sold as ‘oxycodone’ (OxyContin, Oxys, Percocet) or other pills including speed and ecstasy/MDMA.
  • These counterfeit pills can be made to look almost identical to prescription opioids and other medications.
  • There is no easy way to know if fentanyl is in your drugs.
  • You can’t see it, smell it or taste it.

When fentanyl is mixed with other opioids, alcohol, benzodiazepines, or stimulants like cocaine, it increases the risk of an overdose.

Public Service Announcement: Prevent overdoses at summer parties and festivals

“On the Nod” vs. Overdose

When someone is on the nod they are very intoxicated or “high” and are at risk of an overdose.

  • Muscles become relaxed
  • Speech is slowed/slurred
  • Sleepiness
  • Head nodding

Someone #OnTheNod will:

  • Respond to “shake & shout”
  • Be able to talk
  • Be able to walk around with or without help
  • Breathe regularly and normally

If someone is on the nod they are at risk of an overdose.
They should never be left alone and should be watched closely for the signs and symptoms of an overdose.

When in doubt always call 9-1-1 

An opioid overdose may look different from one person to the next.
Signs and symptoms:

  • Festival goers who choose to use drugs should:
    • Never use alone – stay with friends you trust and keep an eye on each other
    • Go slow if you are using a new substance;
    • Know the signs of an overdose and call 9-1-1 an overdose is always a medical emergency;
    • Carry naloxone – it is a medication that can temporarily reverse an opioid overdose;
    • If you witness an overdose, call 911 immediately. Administer first aid, give naloxone and if you are on festival grounds, send someone to get festival medical staff.

    Festival goers should also be familiar with the signs of an opioid overdose, which include:

    • Breathing will be slow or absent
    • Lips and nails are blue
    • Person is not moving
    • Person may be choking
    • Person will make gurgling or snoring sounds
    • Person can’t be woken up
    • Skin feels cold and clammy
    • Pupils are tiny (also known as pinpoint)

An overdose is a medical emergency
Don’t be afraid to call 9-1-1 for help

New: The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act becomes Law in Canada

This new law provides immunity from simple possession charges for those who call 9-1-1 for themselves or another person suffering an overdose, as well as anyone else who is at the scene when emergency help arrives.


June 10, 2017
by OPH
1 Comment

Don’t Tick off the Ticks!

Steps to help minimize exposure to tick

Ticks are small & not easy to see which is why you should perform a “full body check” on yourself, kids & pets for ticks.




and bring the tick to the vet!


Use tweezers or a “Tick Key”
Remove it ASAP.
Contact your Dr if attached for 24hrs (or if unsure) for treatment options



Lyme Disease – Signs and Symptoms
Circular, red rash (often, but not always, looks like a ‘bull’s-eye’





Get your tick tested!
If you have a tick that has bitten a human and would like to submit it for testing, please 
Contact 3-1-1 or OPH 613-580-6744
to schedule an appointment to submit the tick for testing.





June 7, 2017
by OPH

3 Tips on How to Say No to a Drink

When I go to a friend’s party, team sporting event or a family gathering I am usually offered a drink.

Sure, there are times when I have a drink and there are times when I am just not in the mood so to speak.

Occasionally I say no to a drink, and I often ask myself: Why do I feel awkward when I don’t want a drink? Will they think that I’m not staying long, that I’m rude or no fun?

In the winter of 2016, Ottawa Public Health launched an online survey that asked the question:
“When does alcohol become a community problem?”

This is what we heard:

“How does one stop peer pressure even for adults peer pressure makes or breaks” 45 years and older

“We’ve all done it. I wish there wasn’t so much pressure on young people to ‘get drunk’ and be cool” – 45 years and older

“There is a lot of societal pressure to drink with friends and to get drunk… I’m also First Nations women and I tend not to drink as much because there is so much stigma towards alcoholism in native communities and in Ottawa.” -19 to 24 years

Sometimes I hear a comeback like…

“Join me! The bottle is already opened!”
“What’s wrong?”
“Are you pregnant?”
“You’re here for a while, one drink will be ok!?!”
“You’re not driving till later!”

How do you sidestep the awkward “no thanks”?

Here are 3 tips to handle the moment if you choose not to drink, when you don’t want any more drinks or when you decide you’ve reached your limit.

1.   Say no and give them a reason.

Go for it and just say no thanks. I find adding a reason can relieve the pressure and reduce the chance they will ask again later. Make it short and sweet, there is no need for a long explanation. Build up your confidence before you go in and have an explanation ready.

You could say “No thanks”

  • I’m driving home
  • I’m cutting back for my new year’s resolution
  • I’ve got to wake up early tomorrow
  • I’m under the weather
  • My doctor suggested I cut back
  • It’s not worth the calories, I’m on a strict plan
  • I’m on medication or antibiotics and I can’t mix

You could add some humor depending on who’s asking!

  • No thanks, I’m training for a marathon or the Olympics! It could lead to a good chuckle or they might ask more questions if you’re in good shape.

2.   Avoid the question altogether by having a non-alcoholic drink or hold a cup.

Just holding a glass can limit the number of people offering you a drink because it looks like you’ve already got one. This can be a way to avoid explaining why you’ve had enough, or aren’t drinking.

It doesn’t have to be alcohol it can be a mocktail or just filled with ice. You could accept the alcoholic drink and just hold it. You don’t have to drink it. Or empty a can and fill it up with water and no one will know.

3.   Ask a friend or the bartender/waitress for support

Approach the bartender or waitress when you arrive to share that you aren’t drinking. You can set up a plan with them so they serve you non-alcoholic drinks or soda water when you ask for a gin & tonic or a cocktail.

Sharing your decision with a friend can also add support. Talking about alcohol can be scary. The worry of being labelled the “party pooper” is worse in our head than if we speak up and talk about it. We might never know who else feels the same way if we don’t bring it up.

Friends that usually buy shots or drinks might be happy to save cash without being offended. It can help to set up expectations before they even offer you a drink and when they’re thinking straight too. They can even help change the conversation and support your decision when you are offered a drink by someone else.

Tell us your tips! Share your comments with us.

Are you curious how your drinking compares with others? Try the free, anonymous and bilingual check your drinking survey. You can print or email your results directly to yourself, your physician or other health care professional. Select Language at top right of page.

Ottawa Public Health has more information on alcohol and where to get help. For more facts, figures and local perspectives on alcohol in Ottawa, read the full Status of Alcohol in Ottawa report.

June 2, 2017
by OPH

Prom night, Consent and #NoRegrets !

You’ve been looking forward to your prom for weeks if not months.

Make it great by being #PromSmart, making #GoodChoices and having #NoRegrets

Am I Ready? You are the only one who can decide if you are ready for sex.

What you need to know when it comes to sex and consent

Sex it Smart Tips