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Middlesex-London Health Unit

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Extreme Cold

Each winter, London and Middlesex County experience periods of extreme cold. The Middlesex-London Health Unit issues Cold Alerts when any of the following conditions are met:

  • Environment Canada forecasts a low temperature of –15°C or lower;
  • Environment Canada forecasts a wind chill of -20 or lower, or if
  • Environment Canada issues a "Cold Alert" or "Cold Warning."

Cold Weather Alert Today Sign (PDF)

Download a warning sign that you can post at your facility.

City of London - Warming Centres

View a list of Warming Centres in the City of London

Are You at Risk?1

During extreme cold weather, everyone is at risk, but some groups are more vulnerable than others. They include:

  • Infants (under 1 year).
  • People 65 years of age or older.
  • People experiencing homeless.
  • Outdoor workers.
  • Sport enthusiasts (skiers, ice skaters).
  • People living in homes that are poorly insulated or without heat.
  • People living in homes without power (usually due to other weather-related events such as a winter storm).

Health Risks of Extreme Cold: Know When to Get Help1

Seek help if you experience any of the following symptoms of cold illness:

  • Hypothermia

    Symptoms/signs include: shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling/uncoordinated movements, memory loss, slurred speech, drowsiness.
  • Frostbite

    Symptoms/signs include white/grayish skin area, skin that feels unusually firm or waxy, or numbness.

Things You Can Do to Protect Yourself1

Prepare for extreme cold events every winter - it’s always a possibility in Ontario. There are numerous steps you can take both before and during this type of event:

  • Stay in heated buildings as much as possible (your home, friend or family’s place, public buildings such as malls, libraries, etc.).
  • Dress appropriately when going outside (multiple layers of loose fitting clothes, toques, mittens, etc.) and cover up all exposed skin since, in extreme cold, frostbite can occur within minutes.
  • Drink warm fluids but avoid caffeinated or alcoholised beverages, as they cause your body to lose heat more rapidly.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise while out in the cold as much as possible.
  • Know the weather forecast, and avoid travelling when extreme weather is predicted.
  • Prepare your home and car for winter.

What can I do to help others when a cold alert is issued?

The Health Unit advises local agencies that provide shelter and assistance to homeless people to prepare for an increase in demand for their services when cold alerts are issued. Members of the public who would like to help are asked to drop off donations of non-perishable foods, blankets, sleeping bags, and warm clothing to the following locations:

Additional Information

Visit the Ministry of Health’s web page to learn more about how to prepare your home and car for winter.

Call Telehealth Ontario for free advice from a Health Professional, 24/7, at:

  • 1-866-797-0000 or TTY at 1-877-797-0007

For pet care information, please visit the London Animal Care Centre website or call:

  • 519-685-1330


Please note: Where indicated, the source of the information on this web page is the Ministry of Health. © Queen’s Printer for Ontario, 2008.

Date of creation: October 28, 2013
Last modified on: January 29, 2021


1Ontario. Ministry of Health. (2018, August 9). Extreme cold. Retrieved from