Health unit issues cold weather alert

Photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / rjcphoto

For the first time this winter, the Middlesex London Health Unit has issued a Cold Weather Alert.

The alert was issued Thursday afternoon as Environment Canada’s overnight forecast called for a low temperature of -15 C. The national weather agency said brisk winds will lead to wind chill values of -21 C between Thursday night and Friday morning.

“The combination of strong and cold winds, mixed with low overnight temperatures can have an impact on our bodies,” Randy Walker, Public Health Inspector with the Middlesex-London Health Unit said in a statement released Thursday afternoon. “We suggest that people who are going to be spending time outside this evening, or in the overnight hours, ensure they dress for the conditions by wearing layers and covering exposed skin, in order to reduce the risk of hypothermia and frostbite.”

According to the health unit, symptoms of frostbite include skin turning red, blue or, in later stages, grayish-white. It said people experiencing frostbite can have pain, as well as numbness and stiffness in the fingers, toes, ears, and nose. Anyone experiencing these symptoms is advised to warm the affected area by placing it next to warmer skin or immerse it in warm, but not hot, water. The affected area should not be rubbed. In cases of severe, blistering frostbite, medical treatment should be sought.

Symptoms of hypothermia can include pale skin, drowsiness, confusion, and hallucinations. While the initial stages of hypothermia produce shivering, that shivering may decrease as a person’s body temperature drops.

“In severe cases, individuals lose consciousness, their breathing becomes shallow and their pulse becomes irregular and hard to detect,” the health unit said. “Anyone with these symptoms requires emergency medical treatment in order to prevent coma or death.”

Anyone who sees a person who is outside and in distress because of the cold is asked to call London CAReS at 519-667-2273. However, if the situation appears to be a medical emergency, 911 should be called.

Warming centres are expected to be opened Thursday night. A list of their locations can be found here.