With the onset of cold weather conditions beginning Tuesday, Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living is reminding Manitobans across the province of health concerns related to colder temperatures that are expected in the coming days.
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); 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.
Check road conditions before departing by calling Manitoba Highways at 511 or visiting manitoba511.ca.
Winterize vehicles by keeping gas tanks full, using winter tires and keeping a well-stocked winter safety kit in vehicles. More information can be found at getprepared.gc.ca.
If stranded, remain in the vehicle if possible until help is available. Avoid driving or travelling by car in bad weather or when roads are very slippery.
Take action to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Have a properly installed carbon monoxide detector in homes and make sure to properly maintain any fuel-burning equipment. Do not use generators, barbeques or other fuel burning appliances indoors. More information can be found at gov.mb.ca.
Keep homes warm with a properly installed and maintained heat source. If heating in a home is not sufficient:
- dress in layers, as if outdoors;
- use a blanket to cover your body and elevate your feet, as the air is colder near the floor;
- try not to sit for more than an hour and get up, walk around or have a hot drink; and
- move your arms and legs and/or wiggle your fingers and toes while sitting.
For more information on cold and health, call Health Links–Info Santé at 204-788-8200 or (toll-free) at 1-888-315-9257.