Climate change is resulting in more frequent extreme weather events. We encourage people to take precautions in the event of extreme weather conditions such as extreme cold and extreme heat.
Extremely Cold Weather
If bitterly cold wind chills are forecast residents are urged to avoid health complications such as wind burn, frostbite and hypothermia.
Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature drops, in the following stages:
- Stage 1: shivering and numbness, quick shallow breathing, tiredness and possible nausea.
- Stage 2: strong shivering, muscles uncoordinated and movements are slow and laboured. Mild confusion, paleness and blue skin in extremities possible.
- Stage 3: no shivering; trouble thinking, talking and walking; irrational behaviour. Heart may beat fast but breathing slow. Risk of dying.
How to Treat Hypothermia
Severe cases of hypothermia (stage 2 and 3) require immediate attention – call 911. For stage 1, and while waiting for help, keep warm and dry, keep muscles moving, drink warm sweet liquids, and allow shivering.
Cold Weather Warnings
A cold weather warning is issued when the temperature reaches -25°C or lower or -28°C or lower with wind chill. A cold weather health emergency is issued when the temperature reaches -35°C or lower or -55°C or colder with wind chill.
Responding to Cold Weather
Protect yourself from extreme cold weather:
- Stay in heated buildings as much as possible
- Drink warm fluids, but avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, as they cause your body to lose heat more rapidly
- If going outside, dress in layers with a wind-resistant outer layer and cover all exposed skin
- Avoid strenuous exercise outdoors, but stay moving (especially hands and feet) to keep blood flowing and maintain body heat
- Be up to date on the weather conditions, wind chill alerts and extreme weather warnings before going outdoors or travelling
Extremely Hot Weather
When extreme hot and humid weather is predicted, it can put everyone at risk from heat illnesses such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat fainting, heat edema (swelling of hands, feet and ankles), heat rash and heat cramps.
Identifying Heat Illnesses
Watch for symptoms that include:
- Dizziness or fainting, nausea or vomiting
- Headache, rapid breathing and heartbeat
- Extreme thirst and decreased urination with unusually dark yellow urine
Preventing Heat Illnesses
Heat illnesses are preventable:
- Stay well hydrated, drink before feeling thirsty (plain water is best)
- Stay in an air-conditioned place
- Avoid sun exposure – stay in the shade, wear SPF 30+ sunscreen, a wide brimmed hat, UVA & UVB protective sunglasses, and loose fitting, light coloured, breathable clothing
- Take cool showers or baths
- Block the sun out by closing awnings, curtains or blinds during the day
- Reschedule strenuous outdoor activities or plan them for cooler times of the day
- Never leave people or pets in a parked vehicle or in direct sunlight
- Visit neighbours, friends and older family members, especially those who are chronically ill, to make sure that they are cool and hydrated
Homelessness During Extreme Heat Conditions
Individuals experiencing homelessness are at a higher risk of experiencing heat-related illness, as they may not be able to access places to escape high-heat conditions, particularly with the current restrictions in place related to the COVID-19 pandemic. HPEPH has created a resource page and printable fact sheet with tips on how to stay cool for people experiencing homelessness.