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Media Release: Cold Weather Alert

Hastings and Prince Edward Counties/Friday, January 22, 2021 – Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (HPEPH) is issuing a cold weather alert to remind residents of Hastings and Prince Edward Counties to take precautions as the winter temperature drops.  Cold temperatures can lead to health complications such as wind burn, frostbite and hypothermia.

A cold weather alert is issued when the temperature reaches -15°C without wind chill (WC).  If the temperature continues to drop HPEPH will issue the following:

Cold Weather AlertCold Weather Health WarningCold Weather Health Emergency
Temp: -15°C without WCTemp: -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

Cold weather can negatively affect health at even mild temperatures. The risk of health impacts goes up as temperatures get colder. While cold weather is a risk for everyone, not everyone is equally at risk. People who are at a higher risk include:

  • People experiencing homelessness;
  • People living in homes that are poorly insulated (with no heat or power);
  • People who work or exercise outside;
  • People with certain medical conditions and certain medications*;
  • Infants (under 1 year); and
  • Seniors (65 years or older).

*Speak with your primary care provider to see how your medical history and/or medications may increase your risk of being in the cold.

The City of Belleville is operating an overnight warming centre for individuals looking to seek shelter from the cold. The shelter is located at 93 Dundas Street East (West Entrance) January 22-23 from 8pm until 8am. COVID-19 screening is in place and masks/physical distancing are required.

Do your best to understand how to identify the health issues that can result from cold weather.

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 unusually 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 medical attention. Call 911.  For Stage 1 and while waiting for help in Stages 2 and 3: keep warm and dry, keep muscles moving, drink warm sweet liquids, and allow shivering.

Protect yourself from extreme cold with the following tips:

  • Whenever possible, wear clothing that will protect you from the cold including warm socks, gloves, hat and scarf;
  • Dress in layers with a wind resistant outer layer;
  • Keep moving (especially hands and feet) to keep blood flowing and maintain body heat;
  • Avoid alcohol before going out in the cold (it can confuse your body into thinking you are not as cold as you are);
  • Be up to date on the weather conditions, wind chill alerts and extreme weather warnings;
  • Consider wearing sunglasses, lip balm and sunscreen (face mask and goggles to protect from windburn);
  • Winterize your home by checking your heating system and sealing all cracks and drafts;

For information on the status of the Cold Alert visit www.weather.gc.ca.

References:

Health Canada Extreme Cold  at www.healthycanadians.gc.ca

Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care Extreme Cold  at www.health.gov.on.ca

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Media contacts:

Emily Tubbs, Communications Specialist
etubbs@hpeph.ca

Maureen Hyland, Communications Specialist
mhyland@hpeph.ca

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Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (HPEPH) is in Green-Prevent level of the provincial reopening Framework since February 10, 2021.

For details regarding restrictions and precautions applicable to the Green-Prevent level of the province’s reopening Framework, please visit Ontario.ca.

In addition to restrictions outlined by the province, Dr. Piotr Oglaza, Medical Officer of Health and CEO at HPEPH, has implemented a Class 22 Order, which includes additional precautions in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties.

HPEPH will continue to update hpePublicHealth.ca to include information for local businesses and residents. Local business owners/operators who are unable to find answers to their questions on our web page are invited to complete our online inquiry form.

If you are concerned about potential exposure to a positive case of COVID-19, please be reassured that any contacts of a confirmed case will be contacted directly and monitored by public health.

Low-risk and indirect contacts should self monitor for symptoms for 14 days from the time of potential exposure and seek testing if symptoms develop. Low risk contacts do not need to isolate unless symptoms develop, and can continue to attend school/work/daycare while monitoring for symptoms.