February 5, 2015 - In the last week, Superior North EMS paramedics have responded to at least five 911 calls for persons suffering from exposure to the cold weather, including one person with serious injuries to their extremities.

Deputy Chief Gates is reminding the public that when cold snaps persist, like what we are currently experiencing in Northwestern Ontario, it does not take long for hypothermia and frostbite to set in.

During extreme cold conditions, those most at risk are infants, young children, the elderly, and the homeless. Outdoor sport enthusiasts and outsider workers also need to be cautious.

When extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, or the tip of the nose are exposed to extreme cold, frostbite will occur. Frostbite damages the body tissue and symptoms include loss of feeling and a pale waxy appearance. If symptoms are present, seek medical help immediately.

Hypothermia, prolonged exposure to cold, is the most serious of cold-related illnesses. Warning signs for adults include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling of hands, memory loss, slurred speech, and drowsiness. Warning signs for children are bright, redcolored skin and very low energy.

The following safety tips can help protect people from exposure to extreme cold weather:

  • Cover exposed skin. Frostbite can occur in 30 seconds.
  • Wear a hat. Up to 40% of body heat loss can occur through the head.
  • Wear gloves or mittens and a scarf to help protect the neck, chin, and face.
  • Wear clothes in layers: an inner layer, middle layer, and outer layer.
  • If you are traveling or walking any distance, let someone know what route you are taking and when to expect you back.
  • Take shelter from the wind to reduce your exposure to wind chill.
  • The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends keeping children indoors when the
    temperature falls below -25°c, or if the wind chill is -28°c or greater.
  • Think about your pets. They are affected by the cold weather as much as you are.

It is important for neighbors, relatives, and citizens in general to look out and check up on one another, especially those who may need additional assistance, including those who may be homeless.

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Contact: Wayne Gates, Deputy Chief - SNEMS, Tel: (807) 625-4610