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Health Unit Issues Cold Weather Alert

With overnight temperatures expected to fall to -18 C this weekend, the Middlesex London Health Unit has issued a Cold Weather Alert.

It is advising anyone who will be spending time outdoors to make sure they dress warmly enough to withstand the frigid temperatures. The health unit is also telling agencies that assist London’s homeless population to prepare for an increase in demand for services.

“The extreme cold we’re expecting overnight this weekend puts homeless people and outdoor workers at risk,” says Randy Walker, public health inspector with the Middlesex London Health Unit. “At these temperatures, the cold can damage exposed skin in a matter of a few minutes, so it is important that the most vulnerable people in our community have access to warm shelter.”

According to the health unit, overexposure to extreme cold can cause hypothermia. Symptoms include pale skin, lethargy, confusion, and hallucinations. Severe cases can cause a loss of consciousness, shallow breathing, and a hard to detect pulse. Anyone exhibiting these symptoms should be taken for immediate medical treatment.

“Frostbite can also occur in skin that is overexposed to the cold. Symptoms include skin turning red, blue or in later stages, a grey/white colour,” the health unit says in a news release issued Friday morning. “Individuals may also experience pain, numbness and stiffness, especially in the fingers, toes, ears and nose, which are most susceptible to the cold.”

The health unit says anyone who suspects they may be suffering from frostbite should warm the affected area by placing it next to warm skin or immersing it in warm, but not hot, water. Medical treatment should be sought if the affected area is blistered.

Officials are asking people to look out for those who are vulnerable to extreme cold.

“If you see someone who is outdoors and in distress due to the cold, contact London CAReS at 519-667-2273,” the health unit’s release says. “If you feel the situation is a medical emergency, call 911. To view a list of warming centres in the City of London, please visit www.london.ca.”

The Cold Weather Alert is expected to last until Monday.