With cold weather conditions expected in parts of the province as early as Sunday, Nov. 21, Manitoba Health and Seniors Care is reminding individuals about health concerns related to colder temperatures.

Exposure to cold can result in health problems such as frostbite or hypothermia, which can be life-threatening.

COVID-19 restrictions can add further challenges. Public health officials remind all Manitobans to follow current health orders and guidelines. Up-to-date information can be found at gov.mb.ca.

Anyone who is not dressed for cold weather is at risk, although health risks are greatest for:

  • older adults;
  • infants and young children;
  • people with chronic illnesses, such as a heart condition;
  • newcomers to Canada;
  • other vulnerable people, like those experiencing homelessness;
  • people living in homes that are poorly insulated;
  • outdoor workers; and
  • outdoor sports enthusiasts.

Check on neighbours, friends and older family members regularly via phone or virtually, especially those who are ill or living alone.

The health effects of cold can be reduced by:

  • dressing in multiple layers and covering exposed skin;
  • wearing wool, silk or polypropylene inner layers of clothing as they hold more body heat than cotton;
  • wearing waterproof and windproof outer layers;
  • choosing warm mittens instead of gloves;
  • never leaving infants and young children unattended, and ensuring they are dressed appropriately;
  • having a buddy from your household when enjoying winter weather activities who can offer immediate assistance in an emergency; and
  • avoiding alcohol consumption before going out in the cold as alcohol increases the risk of hypothermia by contributing to heat loss.

Watch for symptoms of cold-related illness:

  • frostbite: discoloured skin (whitish, yellow, grey, or blistered); and tingling, burning sensation, or numbness to exposed areas.
  • hypothermia: uncontrollable shivering, drowsiness or exhaustion, confusion or slurred speech; very low energy and bright red cold skin in infants; and severe hypothermia may cause loss of consciousness and the appearance of no pulse or breathing.

If emergency medical care is needed for someone who may have frostbite or hypothermia, move them to a warm place if possible and call for help.

Take action to stay safe in extreme cold:

  • check the weather report before going outside and prepare accordingly;
  • warm up by taking regular breaks in heated buildings such as malls;
  • bring pets and other animals inside or to sheltered areas and provide non-frozen drinking water;
  • reschedule outdoor activities and/or limit time outdoors if severe weather is forecast; and
  • stay on approved paths when participating in outdoor activities.

Take action to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Have a properly installed carbon monoxide detector in homes and make sure to maintain properly any fuel-burning equipment. Do not use generators, barbeques or other fuel burning appliances indoors. More information can be found at gov.mb.ca.

For more information on cold and health, call Health Links-Info Santé at 204-788-8200 or (toll-free) at 1-888-315-9257.

Additional information is available at gov.mb.ca.