Extreme Cold

Canadian winters can be severe. It’s important to learn how to prepare for cold conditions and to avoid the serious health effects of extreme cold exposure including hypothermia and frostbite. 

Who is most at risk?

  • Infants and young children.
  • The elderly.
  • Outdoor workers.
  • People with chronic medical conditions or underlying infections.
  • People taking certain medications (including beta blockers).
  • Winter sport enthusiasts.
  • Homeless persons and those lacking shelter or proper clothing.

How can you protect yourself and others from extreme cold?

Know the forecast

Extreme cold events occur when winter temperatures drop significantly below average for that time of the year. According to Health Canada, risks from exposure to extreme cold, including frostbite, frostnip, and hypothermia, increase at wind chill values below -27°C.

Environment Canada will issue an alert with an Extreme Cold Warning when the temperature or wind chill is expected to reach -30°C for at least two (2) hours.

Prepare ahead of time: be on the lookout for Extreme Cold Weather Warnings by following:

Be prepared

During times of cold weather:

  • Dress warmly in layers and wear a wind resistant outer layer

  • Stay dry and change out of wet clothing as quickly as possible

  • Keep moving (especially your hands and feet) to keep your blood flowing and maintain your body heat.

  • If you are caught outside in extreme cold conditions, look for shelter out of the wind and keep moving to maintain your body heat.

  • Prepare your home by doing regular maintenance. Make sure your heating system is working efficiently and seal all cracks and drafts to keep the heat in.

  • Avoid alcohol (consuming alcohol before you go out in the cold may increase your risk of hypothermia)

  • Watch for signs of windburn, frostbite and hypothermia

  • Seek medical attention if necessary