With the mercury expected to dip back down to its -15C threshold tonight, and to remain as cold for the next three nights, the Middlesex-London Health Unit is issuing the fifth Cold Weather Alert of 2018. With this latest alert, the Health Unit is reminding those planning to spend time outdoors to take precautions and dress for the conditions to avoid possible cold-related injuries. The alert is expected to remain in place until Saturday, February 10th, when the Environment Canada forecast calls for overnight low temperatures to reach -8C.
“Even though cold temperatures like these are an expected part of winter, we often underestimate the impact it can have on our bodies. With proper planning and foresight there’s no reason why we can’t prevent cold-related health concerns and injuries,” says Randy Walker, Public Health Inspector with the Middlesex-London Health Unit. “Being aware of local weather forecasts and dressing for the conditions are important steps in preventing cold-related injuries, like hypothermia and frostbite.”
Hypothermia occurs when a person’s body temperature drops below normal. Symptoms can include pale skin, lethargy, confusion and hallucinations. Individuals may shiver in early stages of hypothermia, but 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.
Frostbite can also occur within minutes to skin that is overexposed to the cold. Symptoms include skin turning red, blue or in later stages, a gray/white colour. Individuals may also 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. Once indoors, 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.
The Health Unit also advises local agencies that provide shelter and assistance to people who may spend the night outdoors to prepare for an increase in demand for their services.
If you see someone who is outdoors and in distress due to the cold, contact London CAReS at 519-667-2273, if you feel the situation is a medical emergency, call 9-1-1. For a list of warming centres in the City of London, please visit: http://www.london.ca/residents/homeless-prevention/Pages/Find-a-Warming-Centre.aspx .
Dan Flaherty, Communications Manager, Middlesex-London Health Unit
519-663-5317 extension 2469 or 519-617-0570
Randy Walker, Public Health Inspector, Middlesex-London Health Unit