Extreme cold a serious health risk for unprotected

Temperatures dropping below freezing can cause more than just the shivers.

Icy weather can also pose serious health risks for those who are vulnerable or who don’t take proper precautions.

“During our Northern BC winters, residents need to ensure they are adequately protected against the elements,” said Dr. Lorna Medd, Medical Health Officer. “The elderly can be especially at risk due to increased opportunities for falls, as well as isolation in the home. Younger people with poor heart health also need to be careful by avoiding over-exertion from activities such as snow shoveling, which could bring on heart attacks.”

Common sense is important in guarding against the dangers of harsh winter conditions.

Protection in the cold:

? Wear a properly insulated hat to keep warm – most body heat loss occurs from the head.

? Drink lots of water to prevent dehydration, which can occur just as easily in cold weather as in hot.

? Traveling out of town by vehicle? Take along emergency gear such as blankets, extra mitts and boots, and jumper cables.

? Remember that alcohol and cold weather don’t mix. Alcohol dilates blood vessels, increasing heat loss from unprotected areas and increasing the risk of cold injury.

Preventing frostbite:

? Prevent prolonged exposure outside. The lower the temperature, the greater the risk of frostbite, especially when cold winds are present.

? Commonly affected areas include fingers, toes, ears, chin, cheeks and nose (often left uncovered). Dress adequately, including gloves, scarves, hat and insulated waterproof boots.

? Wear layers of clothing to increase insulation against the cold.

? Change out of wet clothes immediately.

Be a good neighbor:

? Keep an eye out for neighbours needing a hand with icy sidewalks or snowy driveways.

? Check in on isolated seniors who may need extra assistance during chilly weather.

For more information on cold weather injuries such as frostbite or any other health-related issues, the BC NurseLine can be contacted toll-free at 1-866-215-4700. Staffed by registered nurses offering health information and advice, the line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Translation services are available in 130 languages. For additional information, the BCHealthGuide OnLine and the BCHealthFiles are available at www.bchealthguide.org