Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living is reminding Manitobans of health concerns related to colder temperatures.
Exposure to cold can result in health problems such as frostbite or hypothermia, which can be life-threatening. Anyone who isn’t dressed for the 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;
- people who are homeless, or transient;
- people living in homes that are poorly insulated;
- outdoor workers; and
- outdoor sports enthusiasts.
Check on neighbours, friends and older family members regularly, 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 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:
- discoloured skin (whitish, yellow, grey, or blistered);
- tingling, burning sensation or numbness to exposed areas; and
- uncontrollable shivering, drowsiness or exhaustion, confusion, or slurred speech. Infants may have very low energy and bright red cold skin. A person with severe hypothermia may be unconscious and may not seem to have a pulse or to be 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 libraries and malls.
- Bring pets and other animals inside or to sheltered areas with non-frozen drinking water.
- Reschedule outdoor activities and/or limit time outdoors if severe weather is forecast.
- Stay on the approved paths when participating in outdoor activities.
Check road conditions before departing by calling Manitoba Highways at 511 or visiting www.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 www.getprepared.gc.ca.
If stranded, remain in the vehicle if possible until help is available. Avoid driving or traveling 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. More information can be found at online.
Keep homes warm with a properly installed and maintained heat source. If heating a home is not possible during the winter:
- Dress in layers, as if outdoors.
- Use a blanket to cover bodies and elevate feet as the air is colder near the floor.
- Try not to sit for more than an hour. Get up and walk around; consume a hot drink. Move arms and legs and/or wiggle fingers and toes while sitting.
Consider staying with a friend or family member. Find out if the local community has a plan for warming shelters and how they can be accessed.
For more information on cold and health, call Health Links–Info Santé at 204-788-8200 or (toll-free) at 1-888-315-9257.