With the Environment Canada forecast calling for the mercury to drop to -17C overnight with wind chill values approaching -25C, the Medical Officer of Health has issued the third Cold Weather Alert of the year for London and Middlesex County.
This alert comes into effect this evening and will remain in place until Wednesday, Jan. 28 when the daytime high is expected to reach -4C.
“Although this latest Cold Weather Alert is going to be brief in duration, it’s important to remember that we don’t need an extended period of extreme cold to cause problems for people who spend time outdoors,” said Iqbal Kalsi, manager of environmental health with the health unit. “When temperatures drop below -15C degrees, it can take as little as a few minutes for exposed skin to be damaged by frostbite. Our advice is to stay indoors tonight, but it you have to be outside dress in warm layers and wear a hat, gloves and a scarf.”
Signs and symptoms of frostbite include when the skin turns red or blue, and even a gray/white colour in later stages. Individuals may also experience pain, numbness and stiffness, especially in the fingers, toes, ears and nose, which are most susceptible to the cold.
If you suspect frostbite, warm the affected area by placing it next to warmer skin or immerse the area in warm, but not hot, water. Do not rub the affected area, and seek emergency medical treatment for cases of severe, blistering frostbite. The re-warming process may take up to 60 minutes.
Overexposure to cold temperatures could also result in hypothermia, which occurs when a person’s body temperature drops below normal. Symptoms may include pale skin, lethargy, confusion and hallucinations.
Individuals may shiver a lot in the early stages of hypothermia, but shivering may decrease as body temperature continues to drop. In severe cases of hypothermia individuals lose consciousness, their breathing becomes shallow and their pulse becomes irregular and hard to detect.
Anyone with these symptoms requires emergency medical treatment in order to prevent coma or death.
The health unit is also advising local agencies that provide shelter and assistance to the homeless to prepare for an increase in demand for their services.
Members of the public who would like to help are asked to drop off donations of non-perishable foods, blankets, sleeping bags, and warm clothing to the following locations:
• Men’s Mission and Rehabilitation Centre, 459 York St.
• The Salvation Army Centre of Hope, 281 Wellington St.
• Unity Project, 717 Dundas St.