Skip to main content Skip to sitemap
Hastings and Prince Edward Public Health
girl outdoors with park over face

Extreme Cold Weather

Cold Weather Warnings

Environment and Climate Change Canada issues a cold weather health warning when the temperature reaches -25°C or lower without wind chill (WC) or -28°C or lower with wind chill (WC).

Cold Alert Cold Weather Health Warning Cold Weather Health Emergency
Temp: -15°C without WC Temp: -25°C or lower OR
WC: -28°C or colder (Env. Canada)
Temp: -35°C or lower OR
WC: -55°C or colder OR
Cold Weather Warning issued and contributing factors

Extreme cold events put everyone at risk, but health risks are greatest for:

  • Homeless people or people living in homes that are poorly insulated (no heat or power).
  • Outdoor workers and winter sports enthusiasts.
  • People with certain medical conditions such as diabetes or taking certain medications.
  • Infants (under 1 year) and seniors (65 years or older).

Health Complications

Windburn occurs when the cold wind removes the top layer of oil from the skin causing excessive dryness, redness, soreness and/or itchiness. Windburn can be treated with protective skin care products and lip balm. Do not rub or scratch the skin.

Frostbite occurs during cold weather when blood flow is severely restricted, resulting in poor circulation to the extremities causing numbness, white/greyish skin and/or skin that feels firm or waxy. Frostbite can be treated by warming the body with blankets or body heat, or immersing the body in cool water and slowly increasing the water heat. Do not rub or massage the skin.

Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature drops. There are three stages of hypothermia:

  • 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.

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.

Protect Yourself

  • Stay in heated buildings as much as possible (homes or public buildings, e.g. library or mall).
  • 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. Wear sunglasses, lip balm and sunscreen (face mask and goggles if windburn is a concern).
  • 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.
  • Have an alternate source of heat at home: wood or propane furnace, or kerosene heater (must be approved for indoor use), generator with several days’ worth of fuel (generators produce toxic gases such as carbon monoxide so should only be used outdoors), electric space heaters with automatic shut-off and non-glowing elements and/or blankets.

News, Research and Reports RELATED TO: Outdoors

Silver Chain Challenge Begins June 1

PUBLISHED: Thursday May 30, 2019

Interested in receiving monthly updates about HPEPH programs and services?

Sign up for our e-newsletter

Alerts:

1) Our offices are temporarily closed to the public to allow us to respond to COVID-19 demands. Phone lines remain open. Please access our media release for more information.

2) Returning travellers must self-isolate for 14 days and contact Public Health if symptoms of COVID-19 develop.

If you have returned from travel anywhere outside of Canada, you must self-isolate for 14 days and immediately contact Public Health or your local health care provider if you develop symptoms of COVID-19. Earlier this month all travellers were asked to self-isolated when they returned to Canada. Effective March 25, the federal government made this isolation mandatory under the Quarantine Act to better protect our most vulnerable citizens. Each of us must make the responsible decision to follow the advice of health authorities. It’s in everyone’s best interest to do everything we can to stop the spread of COVID-19.