December 1, 2016
As we get closer to the beginning of winter and temperatures start to drop, Toronto Public Health is sharing tips with the public on how to stay warm during the cold weather season.
"Colder weather can affect everyone's health, however, some people are more vulnerable than others, including people experiencing homelessness, those who work outdoors, the elderly and individuals with pre-existing health conditions," said Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Toronto's Acting Medical Officer of Health. "Now is a good time to remind residents of ways they can stay warm and healthy this coming winter season."
Exposure to cold weather can increase the immediate risk of direct cold weather injuries including hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia occurs when the body's core temperature drops below 35°C. Symptoms can include shivering, confusion and stumbling. Frostbite occurs when body tissues freeze and die. Frostbite mainly affects extremities such as fingers, toes, ears and nose. Skin appears waxy, grey and cold to the touch. In severe cases, amputation may be needed.
During colder temperatures, members of the public are encouraged to take the following precautions:
• Check the weather report before going outside.
• Dress in layers, making sure your outer layer is windproof, and cover exposed skin.
• Wear a hat, warm mittens or gloves, and warm boots.
• Stay dry. Your risk of hypothermia is much greater if you are wet.
• Choose wool or synthetic fabrics for your clothes instead of cotton, because cotton stops keeping you warm when it gets wet.
• Seek shelter if you normally spend long periods outside. Depending on the wind chill, exposed skin can freeze in minutes.
• Drink warm beverages, other than alcohol.
• Warm up by taking regular breaks in heated buildings when enjoying winter activities outside.
• Consider rescheduling outdoor activities, or limiting time outdoors, during colder temperatures, especially if it's windy.
• Heat your home to at least 21ºC if babies or elderly people are present.
When the weather forecast is for a temperature of -15ºC or colder, or a wind chill of -20 or colder, the City's Acting Medical Officer of Health will issue an Extreme Cold Weather Alert. This activates local services that focus on getting and keeping vulnerable residents inside. Services that are activated during Extreme Cold Weather Alerts include additional shelter beds, notification to community agencies to relax any service restrictions, availability of transit tokens in some drop-ins, and overnight street outreach.
Between December 15, 2016 and February 28, 2017, two 24-hour cold weather drop-ins will be open 24/7 regardless of whether there is a cold alert in effect. During the first two weeks of this month (until December 14) and again between March 1 and April 15, 2017, the cold weather drop-in services are provided on a more limited basis, becoming available by 3 p.m. on the day an extreme cold weather alert is called and remaining open until noon on the day it is cancelled.
The City asks that residents help vulnerable people by calling 311 if there is a need for street outreach assistance. If the situation is an emergency, call 911.
Residents can find out more about winter services for homeless and under-housed individuals at http://bit.ly/2gy6YNb.
More information and tips for staying warm during cold weather are available on the Toronto Public Health web page at http://bit.ly/1xLvhr9.
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