SIMCOE, JANUARY 5, 2015 – The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit is reminding residents to take cold weather precautions as much of Ontario is set to experience consecutive days of fairly low temperatures for the first time this winter.
In temperatures of -15°C or colder, unprotected skin can freeze in less than 30 minutes and the risk of developing hypothermia is high. However, while everyone is at risk to cold weather, some groups are more vulnerable to the frigid temperatures. They include:
- The elderly
- Infants and children
- People taking certain prescription medications
- People with pre-existing health conditions
- The homeless
- Outdoor workers
- People living in homes that poorly insulated or lack sufficient heating, and
- Outdoor recreation enthusiasts
“Considering the elderly and young children are more vulnerable to cold weather, it’s a good idea if they limit or avoid going outside under these types of conditions,” notes Kris Lutzi, Sr. Public Health Inspector and Emergency Planner for the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit. The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends keeping children indoors if the temperature and/or wind chill falls below -27°C. “We’re also encouraging residents to check on neighbours that are elderly or need special care as well as any relatives who live alone,” added Lutzi.
Cold-related injuries, including frostbite and hypothermia, can be avoided by following these cold weather safety tips:
- Stay in heated buildings as much as possible.
- As the cold, dry air increases dehydration, drink warm fluids but avoid liquids that contain caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar as these fluids will actually cause you to lose more body fluid.
- Be aware of the weather forecast so that you can dress appropriately and be ready for the cold weather.
- Wear a warm hat, as 30 to 40 per cent of your body’s heat escapes through your head.
- Dress in layers of loose-fitting clothing. This will trap air and provide good insulation. The inner layer should be absorbent; the middle layer(s) warm; and the outer layer water repellent and wind resistant.
- Leave as little skin exposed to the cold wind as possible when outdoors.
- Sweating increases heat loss, so remove layers whenever you feel too warm.
- If clothing becomes wet, change into dry clothes as soon as possible.
- Take the wind-chill factor into account. Plan routes that keep the wind at your back.
- Watch for fatigue. Don’t push yourself in extremely cold weather.
- Be aware of the early signs of frostbite: white or gray spots on skin or areas having lost feeling, feels unusually firm or waxy. Tingling and pain can also be a warning sign of frost bite usually in the hands, feet, nose and ears.
- Beware of the early signs of hypothermia: unable to think clearly, shivering, loss of memory, lethargy, slurred speech or loss of consciousness. Immediate medical attention is required.
- Be aware of the dangers of using a space heater as a heating device. Select a space heater with an automatic shut-off switch and non-glowing elements, and do not place near drapes, bedding, furniture or anything else that may catch on fire.
- Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur when gas ovens and other fuel-burning devices such as grills, camp stoves or generators used indoors to heat homes. Never use such equipment indoors to heat your home.
- Make sure you have a functioning smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector
- If you are taking your dog for a walk or a “bathroom break,” stay out with them. If you’re cold enough to go inside, it probably is too cold for the pet to stay out longer as well.
For more information on cold weather safety, local residents can contact the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit at 519-426-6170 or visit www.hnhu.org.
For general inquiries regarding Norfolk County services the public can contact any of the customer service lines listed below:
- Simcoe: 519-426-5870
- Delhi: 519-582-2100
- Langton: 519-875-4485
For general inquiries regarding Haldimand County services the public can contact 905-318-5932.
Kris Lutzi, BHS, BASc, CPHI (C)
Sr. Public Health Inspector/Emergency Planner, Environmental Health Team
12 Gilbertson Dr., Simcoe, ON N3Y 4L1
Phone: 519-426-6170 Ext. 3261