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Tips to stay safe and warm during cold temperatures

Simcoe, ON. December 19, 2019 – With low temperatures hitting the area, the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit is reminding the public to protect themselves from the cold.

Exposure to cold temperatures for a long period of time can impact blood circulation around the body resulting in frostbite and hypothermia. 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
  • Outdoor recreation enthusiasts

“With the elderly and young children being more vulnerable to cold weather, it’s wise to limit their time outside under these types of conditions,” said Kwesi Douglas, Environmental Health Program Manager for the HNHU. 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 family, friends and neighbours that are elderly or need special care, particularly those who live alone,” added Douglas.

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.
  • Dress in layers of warm clothing; cover your head and leave as little skin exposed.
  • 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.
  • 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, visit https://hnhu.org/health-topics/cold-weather-safety/.