We have lived in this country known for cold climates for generations, but every winter when the mercury drops below -20, we wonder what our ancestors were thinking settling in these frigid lands.

 

Here are 10 signs to alert you to freezing temperatures: 
  1. Your tires went flat and you need to re-inflate them but you don’t have the courage to get out of the car for this perilous task.
  2. You can instantly turn hot water into snow by throwing it out the door.
  3. Your cat refuses to go out despite its warm fur coat.
  4. You can’t take off your glove to text more than two letters.
  5. The sound of nail heads popping in your roof wakes you up at night.
  6. The snow in your driveway is like cement and your snowblower can’t budge it.
  7. Your car is all frosty… on the inside!
  8. Your hair, tears and nose hairs freeze.
  9. You can make iced coffee by leaving your mug outside for a few minutes.
  10. The cables you used to plug in your car are so frozen that you can’t coil them.

If you notice any of these signs, you should take some precautions against frostbite and hypothermia:
  • Cover your head and body by wearing a hat and layers of tightly woven fabrics such as wool or synthetics.
  • Cover exposed areas such as your fingers, cheeks, ears and nose.
  • If your clothes get wet when you are in the cold, change into dry clothes as soon as possible.
  • Drink plenty of warm fluids to help your body stay warm, but avoid caffeine and alcohol.
Recognizing hypothermia

Exposure to cold may result in a decrease in body temperature, which is called a cold-related emergency. One type of emergency is hypothermia, which can happen to anyone who is exposed to cold temperatures for too long and can be life-threatening.

Mild hypothermia – Shivering and complaining of cold, numb fingers and toes, body temperature slightly below normal.
Moderate hypothermia – Shivering, numb fingers and toes, lack of coordination and/or speech, confused or unusual behaviour, impaired judgment.
Severe hypothermia – Person has stopped shivering and complaining of cold, lack of coordination and/or speech, confused or unusual behaviour, impaired judgment, glassy stare, body temperature below 30°C (86°F), breathing has slowed or stopped, possible unconsciousness.

Recognizing frostbite

Frostbite is a serious condition in which body tissues freeze. It most often affects the fingers, toes, ears, and nose. Skin is paler than usual and takes on a waxy appearance.

How to help
  • Call EMS/9-1-1 for severe hypothermia.
  • Treat the person gently and monitor breathing carefully.
  • Get the person away from the cold and inside.
  • Remove any wet clothing and gently dry the person.
  • Warm the person by wrapping them in blankets or putting on dry clothing. Cover the head and neck. Warm the person slowly.
  • If hot water bottles or heating pads are available, put them under the armpits and around the groin and back of the neck. Be careful not to burn these areas.
  • Do not rub areas that appear to be affected by frostbite.
  • If the person is alert, give them sips of warm liquids to drink.
  • Active re-warming using hot baths should be used only when the person is far from a medical facility.
For more tips to be winter ready, read 8 ways to be ready for winter storms and other emergencies.
 
This post is for information purposes only and does not replace first aid training. For information about Red Cross programs and services or training partners that offer courses in your area, call our Contact Centre toll-free at 1-877-356-3226 or visit redcross.ca/firstaid.