Public Health issues Cold Weather Health Warning for KFL&A

Photo by Alex of Worthy of Elegance.

With Environment Canada’s forecast calling for wind chill temperatures below -30°C tonight through Saturday night, KFL&A Public Health has issued a Cold Weather Health Warning for the KFL&A region.

Cold Weather Health Warnings are issued by KFL&A Public Health when the temperature is forecast to be -25°C or colder or when a wind chill of -28°C or colder is forecast for the region by Environment Canada.

When the temperature drops below -25°C or the wind chill is below -28°C, children and seniors should take precautions to avoid the effects of the cold, or be kept indoors to avoid cold injuries, according to the release from KFL&A Public Health, dated Friday Jan. 29, 2021. KFL&A Public Health also works with community service providers, municipalities, schools, long-term care homes, and emergency service providers to ensure that vulnerable groups are taken into consideration, according to the release.

Public Health says 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 the release.

The Medical Officer of Health recommends that you 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 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.

Knowing what to do is an important part of protecting your health and the health of others, Public Health said in the release. This warning is in effect as long as the extreme weather conditions exist.

This is a particular difficult time for those who are without housing, and, as such, warming centres are an important resource for this vulnerable population.

“In light of the pandemic and provincial lockdown, the City and Kingston Frontenac Public Library have partnered to make Warm Up Here locations available to the community,” the City of Kingston said in an email to Kingstonist.

“These are locations where users can step in for immediate relief from the cold. It’s important to note that public health measures (masking and physical distancing) will be in place at these locations, and additional services typical to these sites may not be available.”

The list of warming centres as provided by the City is available here.

Housing Not Bandaids and Katarokwi Union of Tenants has created a helpful poster of warming centres and services available to the public:

For more information on fundraising efforts to help those without housing, click here.

More information on protective measures can be found on KFL&A Public Health’s website

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