Extreme Cold

Exposure to the cold can be hazardous or even life-threatening. In temperatures of -15°C or colder, unprotected skin can freeze in less than 30 minutes and the risk of developing hypothermia is high. Your body's extremities, such as the ears, nose, fingers and toes, lose heat the fastest. The four environmental conditions that cause cold-related stress are low temperatures, high/cool winds, dampness and cold water.

Health Impacts

Potential health impacts associated with extreme cold include frostnip, frostbite, chilblains and hypothermia. In severe cases, hypothermia can lead to organ failure and even death. Watch for the following symptoms of cold-related illness:

  • A white or grayish-yellow skin area
  • Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
  • Numbness
  • Shivering
  • Exhaustion/feeling very tired
  • Confusion
  • Fumbling hands
  • Memory loss
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Babies with bright red, cold skin and/or very low energy

Hypothermia is considered the most serious cold-related illness and can result in death if not addressed quickly. If you notice someone with signs of hypothermia, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 35°C (95°F), seek medical attention immediately by calling 911. If you are not able to get medical help right away, try to warm the person up by placing them in a warm room, removing any wet clothing, wrap them in a warm blanket, and offer them warm liquids if they are conscious.

People most at risk of cold-related illness are people experiencing homelessness, people who work outdoors, people with a pre-existing heart condition or respiratory illness, people taking certain medications, those who are intoxicated or using illicit drugs, older adults, infants and young children.

Cold Alerts

The Brant County Health Unit’s Medical Officer of Health issues a Cold Alert when temperatures are expected to drop below -15°C, without wind chill.

During the alert, those experiencing homelessness are advised to seek shelter.

Emergency Shelter

If you, or someone you know is in immediate need of emergency shelter, please call the Housing Resource Centre at 226-227-7692 from Monday to Friday between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For best service, callers and visitors should try to contact before 3:30 p.m.  If after-hours, please contact St Leonard's Community Services at 1-888-621-0034. 

  • Salvation Army Booth Centre, 187 Dalhousie Street, 519-753-4193 for adult men 

  • Rosewood House, 42 Nelson Street, 519-750-1547 for adult men and adult women 

  • Nova Vita, 59 North Park Street, 519-752-4357 (24-hr crisis line) for women and children fleeing family violence or abuse 

  • St. Leonard’s Station House, 519-758-9644 or youth aged 15 to 17. 

  • St. Leonard’s Cornerstone House, 519-758-9644 for individuals aged 18-29. 

Temporary Warming Spaces

Temporary warming spaces are also available at:

  • Rosewood House for men and women at 42 Nelson Street, and 
  • Salvation Army Booth Centre for men at 187 Dalhousie Street.

Tips for Preventing Cold-Related Illnesses

  • Plan ahead by checking the weather forecast and dressing appropriately.
  • Prepare your home and car with a 72-Hour Emergency Kit that includes warm clothing and blankets.
  • Keep your home adequately insulated and conserve heat by avoiding opening doors and windows as much as possible. Unused areas can also be closed off.
  • Monitor body temperature, especially those of infants, elderly and anyone who often works outdoors.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (avoiding those with large amount of sugar or alcohol) to avoid decreased blood flow and dehydration.
  • Wear waterproof and windproof outer layers, a hat and warm mittens.
  • Choose wool, silk or polypropylene inner layers of clothing; these materials hold more body heat than cotton.
  • Change into dry clothing as soon as possible if you get wet from precipitation, sweat or submersion in water.
  • Wear several layers of warm lightweight clothing when shoveling snow and follow medical advice if you have a history of back or heart problems.
  • Reschedule outdoor activities and limit time outdoors if severe weather is in the forecast.
  • Work slowly when exposed to the cold and avoid over exertion, especially if you experience high blood pressure or heart disease.
  • Generators must be used outdoors as they produce carbon monoxide