With colder weather upon us, we can expect to soon receive extreme cold warnings from Environment Canada. Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) would like to remind people to take extra caution when spending time outdoors, especially during extreme cold events.
This winter will be different from past winters due to additional indoor COVID-19 restrictions.
Many people are spending more time outdoors, and public facilities that previously offered relief from the cold may remain closed or allow in fewer people at a time.
“When temperatures reach -28oC or below, with or without the wind chill, the risk of a cold related injury such as frostbite or hypothermia increases. For example, in -28oC, exposed skin can freeze in 10-30 minutes, or even sooner if the wind speed is faster” says Thomas Nabb, Manager of Environmental Health.
Cold-related injuries include frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite is a condition where the skin freezes. Signs and symptoms of frostbite include pale or waxy skin, swelling or blistering of the skin, or numbness or pain on the area. Hypothermia is a condition where a person gets so cold that the core body temperature drops below 35C. When this happens, internal organs begin to shut down. Signs and symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, slurred speech, weakness, confusion, pale skin colour, and slow, shallow breathing.
To prevent a cold-related injury:
- Dress in layers of warm clothing
- Ensure hands, feet and head, are covered with a hat, scarf, insulated gloves, and waterproof boots
- Check ears, nose, cheeks, chin, fingers, and toes for signs of frostbite regularly
- Reschedule, reduce time or cancel any planned outdoor activity
- Keep infants and children inside
- Check frequently on populations at risk greater risk of cold-related injuries.
Populations at greater risk include: infants and children, elderly, people with chronic conditions (i.e. heart diseases, respiratory diseases, or asthma), outdoor workers, sports enthusiasts, and people lacking proper shelter, clothing or food.
Cold-related injuries are medical emergencies. Call 911 immediately if you are caring for or see someone who has been exposed to cold temperatures and shows any of the above signs and symptoms.
For more information on how to keep warm and stay safe this winter, visit www.nwhu.on.ca.