Canadian winters are great. Snow and cold combined with plenty of sunshine offer many enjoyable outdoor activities. Downhill and cross-country skiing, skating, hockey, sliding and snow machining are among many thrilling physical activities readily available. Here are some tips to keep you safe while exercising in the cold weather.
Health & Safety Tips for Extreme Cold Weather
- Dress warmly and in layers before going outdoors
- Natural fibres will draw moisture away from the skin
- An outer nylon shell will keep wind out
- Wear a hat: 40% of body heat escapes through the head
- Carry extra socks and gloves, and change if your current pairs get wet
- Wear insulated boots that do not cut off circulation and allow you to wiggle your toes around
- Change into dry clothing as soon as you can when you are done your activity
- Wear a neck warmer and mittens
Cold and dry winter weather may dry out your skin. Apply an oil-free moisturizer.
- Wear a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. The reflection of sun off snow may intensify the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.
- Even on a cloudy day ultraviolet radiation will reach the earth. Sunglasses are a good idea to guard against glare.
Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
Remember that drinks containing caffeine or alcohol can dehydrate. Natural fruit juices and water can help the body to recover.
Cold weather may tire a person more quickly. Take occasional rest breaks. If you get overtired you are more likely to get frostbite or have an accident.
Alcohol changes the way blood flows around your body. It makes the body lose heat faster and gives a false sensation of being warm. Only one or two drinks can reverse the body’s defence against hypothermia.
When alcohol reaches the brain it creates a relaxed or mellowing effect. This is why judgment is quickly impaired. Many people enjoy outdoor recreational activities including skating, hockey and skiing. Any of these activities can become dangerous if alcohol use is involved.
Alcohol is behind many snowmobiling tragedies throughout the winter months. High speeds and reduced judgment combined with unexpected obstacles on a trail, open waterways or other speeding sleds cause many accidents. Add alcohol and these elements can be lethal. Save alcohol use for the end of the day, when you will not be operating any vehicles.
Your decision to drink is your business.
Your decision to drink and drive is everyone’s business.
Help keep our roads, waterways, and snowmobile trails safe.
Please Don’t Drink and Drive.
- Fingers, toes, ears and noses are most susceptible
- Affected areas turn pink in colour
- Area will become painful
- White, waxy patches will show as frostbite continues
- Area will begin to feel numb
- To treat frostbite, warm by placing affected area next to warmer skin or immerse in WARM, NOT HOT WATER
- Don’t rub, this can cause more damage
- Re-warming may take 30 – 60 minutes
- Go to the hospital emergency department for a severe (blistering, white or grey-coloured patches, numbness in the area) case of frostbite
Hypothermia is a condition that occurs from overexposure to cold. A person’s body temperature falls below normal.
Normal body temperature ranges from 36.1 to 37.8°C (97 to 100°F). Oxygen to the brain is less when body temperature drops.
- As body temperature drops, consciousness begins to get clouded.
- The person is pale and lethargic, appears confused or disoriented, and may hallucinate.
- In the beginning stages of hypothermia, the person shivers a lot, but as body temperature decreases, shivering actually decreases. This may give people a false sense of well being.
- Persons with these symptoms must be kept warm and be taken immediately to hospital.
- Infants will have cold reddish skin and low energy.
In severe hypothermia (body temperature below 30°C or 86°F) the person becomes unconscious, breathing is shallow and pulse is irregular or hard to detect.
If someone is found with these symptoms, call for immediate emergency medical treatment.
- Healthy individuals exposed to cold weather or conditions for long periods of time are at risk for hypothermia.
- Elderly persons and infants under 1 year of age are most at risk. Infants are particularly susceptible if they are premature or small for their age.
- The homeless, sport enthusiasts and outdoor workers are also at risk.
The best way to prevent hypothermia is not to stay in an unheated home, but to move to a warm place. People who remain in unheated homes should make sure that their head, hands and feet are well covered and dry. Physical activity releases heat through the body so keep moving!
Wear clothes in layers, drink warm fluids (not alcohol) and wear a hat and mittens. Also be sure a scarf or neck wrap covers the chin, lips and cheeks.
- Move the person to a warm area. Remove any wet clothing and dress warmly, wrap in blankets.
- Seek medical attention immediately.
- Offer a warm beverage if the person is alert.
- Do not offer alcohol or hot drinks. Do not give drinks to an unconscious person.