After weeks of mild winter weather, bitter windchill values return to London and Middlesex County, prompting the Health Unit to issue the first Cold Weather Alert of the year. The Alert will come into effect just after midnight as windchill values plunge to -23 by midday Friday and will remain in place until these values climb above the Health Unit’s threshold of -20.
The Health Unit issues Cold Weather Alerts when forecast temperatures are expected to drop to -15C or lower, or when Environment Canada advises that windchill values are expected to be -20 or lower.
“With a milder winter season so far, these drastic changes in temperature can take a negative toll on our bodies and our health if we aren’t properly protected,” says David Pavletic, Food Safety & Healthy Environments Manager with the Middlesex-London Health Unit. “We continue to advise people to limit the time they spend outdoors when it gets this cold, but if you have to be outside, dress appropriately for the conditions and make sure to cover exposed skin.”
Cold conditions and strong winds can damage exposed skin and lead to frostbite. Symptoms of frostbite include skin turning red, blue or in later stages, grayish-white. Individuals may experience pain, numbness and stiffness, especially in the fingers, toes, ears and nose, which are most susceptible to the cold. If you suspect frostbite, warm the affected area by placing it next to warmer skin or immerse in warm, but not hot, water. Do not rub the affected area, and seek emergency medical treatment for cases of severe, blistering frostbite. The re-warming process may take up to 60 minutes.
Hypothermia can happen when a person’s internal body temperature drops below normal. Symptoms include pale skin, drowsiness, confusion and hallucinations. While individuals may shiver in the early stages of hypothermia, shivering may decrease as body temperature drops. In severe cases, individuals lose consciousness, their breathing becomes shallow and their pulse becomes irregular and hard to detect. Anyone with these symptoms requires emergency medical treatment in order to prevent coma or death.
For a list of warming centres in the City of London, please visit: https://london.ca/warming-centres
For more information about extreme cold visit: https://www.healthunit.com/extreme-cold
Morgan Lobzun, Communications Coordinator, Middlesex-London Health Unit
David Pavletic, Environmental Health Manager, Middlesex-London Health Unit