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Public Health cold weather warning helps residents identify complications

Hastings Prince Edward Public Health is issuing a cold weather health warning for this weekend to remind residents to take precautions as the temperature drops.

Cold temperatures can lead to health complications such as wind burn, frostbite and hypothermia. A cold weather health warning is issued when the temperature is predicted by Environment Canada to be -25°C or lower or a wind chill of -28°C or colder.

Know how to identify the health complications that can result from cold weather.

Windburn occurs when the cold wind removes the top layer of oil from the skin causing excessive dryness, redness, soreness and/or itchiness. Windburn can be treated with protective skin care products and lip balm. Do not rub or scratch the skin.

Frostbite occurs during cold weather when blood flow is severely restricted resulting in poor circulation to the extremities causing numbness, white/greyish skin and/or skin that feels unusually firm or waxy. Frostbite can be treated by warming the body with blankets or body heat, or immersing the body in cool water and slowly increasing the water heat. Do not rub or massage the skin.

Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature drops. There are three stages of hypothermia:

Stage 1: shivering and numbness, quick shallow breathing, tiredness and possible nausea.

Stage 2: strong shivering, muscles uncoordinated and movements are slow and laboured. Mild confusion, paleness and blue skin in extremities possible.

Stage 3: no shivering, trouble thinking, talking and walking, irrational behaviour. Heart may beat fast, but breathing slow. Risk of dying.

Severe cases of hypothermia (stage 2 and 3) require immediate medical attention. Call 911. For stage 1 and while waiting for help: keep warm and dry, keep muscles moving, drink warm sweet liquids, and allow shivering.

Protect yourself from extreme cold with the following tips:

Wear appropriate clothing when outside including warm socks, gloves, hat and scarf;

Dress in layers with a wind resistant outer layer;

Wear sunglasses, lip balm and sunscreen (face mask and goggles if windburn is a concern);

Keep moving (especially hands and feet) to keep blood flowing and maintain body heat;

Be up to date on the weather conditions, wind chill alerts and extreme weather warnings;

Winterize your home by checking your heating system and sealing all cracks and drafts;

Avoid alcohol before going out in the cold;

Know your health risks.

Cold weather events put everyone at risk, but health risks are greatest for the homeless, outdoor workers and winter sports enthusiasts, people living in homes that are poorly insulated (with no heat or power), people with certain medical conditions such as diabetes and people taking certain medications including beta-blockers; infants (under 1 year); and seniors (65 years or older).

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