Public Health issues Cold Weather Health Warning for KFL&A area

Kingstonist file photo.

Shortly after Environment Canada (EC) issued an extreme cold warning for the area on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health issued a Cold Weather Health Warning for the same time frame.

Echoing the EC warning, Public Health said that due to wind chill temperatures values of -35°C to -45°C in the Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington region, they are issuing a Cold Weather Health Warning starting tonight into Friday morning and again Friday night into Saturday morning.

Environment Canada issues an extreme cold weather warning in Southeastern Ontario when the temperature or windchill is expected to reach -35°C for at least two hours, Public Health noted, adding that children and seniors should take precautions to avoid the effects of the cold, or be kept indoors to avoid cold injuries.

Public Health said that very cold weather brings an increased risk of hypothermia for people who stay outside for long periods of time without adequate protection. Overexposure to cold temperatures can result in severe injury. People at greatest risk from cold injuries include infants, the elderly, homeless, outdoor workers, recreation enthusiasts and people who consume excess alcohol, according to a media release dated Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023.

The Medical Officer of Health for KFL&A Public Health recommends area residents take the following actions to prevent cold injuries, such as hypothermia and frostbite:

  • Wear several layers of clothing and make sure that the outer layer protects you from wind and wetness.
  • Cover exposed skin (with hats, mittens, face mask) to protect against frostbite.
  • Drink warm fluids that do not contain caffeine or alcohol, to prevent dehydration.
  • Maintain a heated indoor environment above 20°C; hypothermia can even occur indoors when temperatures are 16°C (61°F) or lower.
  • Avoid outdoor strenuous exercise during cold spells.
  • Check frequently on elderly and vulnerable people; ensure they are in a safe and warm environment.

KFL&A Public Health encourages everyone to know the signs of frostbite and hypothermia, and what to do in those circumstances:

Frostbite is an injury to the skin that is caused by freezing. The risk of frostbite increases when the wind chill rises. Early signs include pink or reddish areas that may feel numb. As frostbite progresses, the affected area will become white and waxy in appearance.

If you suspect frostbite, move to a warm area out of the wind and gently re-warm the affected area using your own body heat; the affected area should not be rubbed, as rubbing can cause more damage. Medical help should be sought if the area does not return to normal colour or sensation quickly.

Hypothermia occurs when the body is exposed to cold temperatures, and it begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. The result is an abnormally low body temperature that can affect brain and muscle function. Hypothermia can be dangerous as a person may not be aware that it is happening and may not understand that corrective action is necessary. An adult who stumbles, mumbles and fumbles objects may be suffering from hypothermia.

If hypothermia is suspected, the affected person should be moved to a warm location, and any wet clothing removed. The individual should be covered with several layers of blankets and offered a warm, non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated drink if he or she is able to swallow. A person with severe hypothermia may be unconscious and if a pulse can’t be found in the neck, 9-1-1 should be called and CPR began immediately.

According to the release from KFL&A Public Health, they also work with community service providers, municipalities, schools, long-term care homes, and emergency service providers to ensure that vulnerable groups are taken into consideration.

With the cold weather upon us, Kingstonist has compiled an article with lists of warm-up locations that can be used throughout the day, as well as warming centres, emergency shelters, and other shelter options. All of that information, sourced from the City of Kingston and KFL&A Public Health, can be read here.

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