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Frostbite warning overnight and morning of February 13 and 14

February 13, 2020
Public Health

Ottawa Public Health has issued a frostbite warning. Please take appropriate precautions before going outside. Those experiencing homelessness are encouraged to seek indoor shelter.

A frostbite warning is issued when Environment and Climate Change Canada forecasts a wind chill of -35 C or colder for the Ottawa area. Environment and Climate Change Canada has issued an extreme cold warning for the City of Ottawa. With a wind chill of -35 C or colder, exposed skin can freeze in less than ten minutes. There is also an increased risk of hypothermia for people who stay outside for long periods of time without adequate protection. Overexposure can result in severe injury and even death. Ottawa Public Health recommends you wear several layers of clothing to keep warm and make sure that the outer layer protects you from wind and moisture.

Frostbite results when the skin and underlying tissues freeze. Skin becomes white and waxy and feels hard to the touch. Frostbite is a serious condition that can require amputation. Medical attention is advised. Frostnip is a mild form of frostbite where only the skin freezes. Both frostbite and frostnip can be treated by gradually warming skin using body heat or warm water. Never rub or massage affected areas.

Infants, children, the elderly, people with certain chronic illnesses such as poor circulation and heart disease and the homeless are particularly vulnerable to cold weather. Service providers to these groups should assess and adjust their programming to prevent cold injuries. These service providers include:

  • Schools
  • Daycares
  • Emergency shelters
  • Outdoor sporting programs

There are many services available to help the homeless:

  • Emergency sleeping spaces in Ottawa shelters
  • Street outreach services to encourage homeless people to come in from the cold
  • Provision of emergency transportation and other services by the Salvation Army

To seek assistance for a homeless person, concerned residents are encouraged to call 3-1-1. Calls are answered by the City of Ottawa Call Centre on a priority basis and referrals are made to the appropriate services.

For more information on frostbite, hypothermia and cold weather precautions visit OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Frostbite or call 613-580-6744 (TTY: 613-580-9656). For up to date weather forecasts and weather advisories, download the free Environment and Climate Change Canada WeatherCAN app or mobile devices.

Look for our live extremeweather updates on Twitter @OttawaHealth. You can also connect with Ottawa Public Health on Facebook and Instagram.

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