Preventing the Harmful Effects of Cold Temperatures


The body must exert additional effort in order to stay warm in cold temperatures. This additional effort can jeopardize health. During winter, we must all adopt safe practices to protect our health.


Before winter

  • Do the necessary and appropriate maintenance work to prepare your house for winter.
  • Make sure your heating system works well.
  • The cold can aggravate certain illnesses, and some medications can make you more sensitive to the cold. Certain people are more at risk of suffering from the effects of extreme cold. If this is your case, consult a health-care professional to learn about measures you should take.

During winter

  • When you go out, dress warmly, according to the temperature outside. Make sure that you cover your head, nose, mouth, neck, hands and feet properly. Wear boots that will keep your feet warm and prevent you from slipping and falling.
  • Do not stay outside too long without being well protected from the cold.
  • Stay active when outside.
  • Obtain regular updates on weather conditions in your region.
  • Pay special attention to extreme cold warnings issued by Environment Canada. In Québec, an extreme cold warning is issued when the temperature or wind chill index is expected to reach -38°C for at least 2 hours. In northern Québec, such a warning is issued when the temperature or wind chill index is expected to reach -48°C for at least 2 hours.

Measures to Take During an Extreme Cold Warning

If you are at home

  • Heat your house as usual, and keep the room temperature at 19°C or above.
  • Caulk doors and windows to prevent cold air from coming in.
  • If you use a wood stove or an auxiliary heating system, make sure the room is well ventilated.
  • If you have to use a generator (in the event of a power outage, for example), install it outside your home or any other inhabited building.

To learn more about what precautions to take when using an auxiliary heating appliance or generator, consult the Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning page.

If you must go out

  • Dress in several layers of clothing. The top layer must be windproof and waterproof.
  • Make sure that you cover your head, nose, mouth, neck, hands and feet.
  • Wear boots that will keep you warm and prevent you from slipping and falling.
  • If you must drive, prepare for the fact that you may have to stay in the cold much longer than intended – if your vehicle breaks down, for example. Bring along a cell phone that works and enough bottled water, food and blankets, as well as your medication.

If you must stay outside

  • Protect yourself from the cold.
  • Stay active – walk constantly, for example.
  • Limit vigorous physical exertion, such as shovelling snow or running.
  • Take breaks in a warm place that is sheltered from the wind.
  • Avoid getting your clothes wet. If your clothes get wet, change them as soon as possible. You can also remove a layer of clothing as soon as you start to sweat.
  • Do not smoke or drink alcohol; neither will warm you up. On the contrary, smoking or drinking alcohol may lower your body temperature even more and lead to hypothermia, for example.

Was this page helpful?


Last update: November 8, 2017 11:37 AM


Avant de consommer, informez-vous. C'est important. Changing our Perception of Homelessness Super-cliniques Schedule an Appointment Online with a Family Doctor