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Staying healthy during winter weather challenging

by Shane Grace, RN

The majority of the time we enjoy instantaneous access to communications and entertainment.  We have grocery stores open and refilling a prescription is a phone call away. It is easy to overlook the fact mother nature can interrupt our hectic lives. Thinking and planning ahead can be the difference between comfort and disaster.

 It is far easier for youth and adults to get our recommended 30 minutes of activity five times a week during the summer.

When the sidewalks are icy and the air chilly going outside becomes harder and fall risk increases. There are walking tracks available in many communities.

If you are going to be house bound for an extended period of time find ways to stay active such as an exercise DVD.   The VON is airing their SMART Exercise class on Wightman Television channel 6.  They range from low to high intensity and can even be done in a chair.  

For those concerned about falling try their Falls Prevention Series. Check your local listings for times. If you have not exercised in an extended period, your family health team or physician can recommend how best to proceed with starting an exercise program.  

 A blizzard or unusually bad weather isn’t the only time one must be careful with winter weather.   Some medications are extremely temperature sensitive and temperature stress can reduce their effectiveness. Care should be taken to keep your medications from freezing. Prescriptions should ideally be picked up last when shopping or running errands.  This reduces the chance that they will be left in a cold. If you feel that your medications have frozen, talk to your pharmacist about how you should proceed.

Plan for stormy weather.  Hydro and other necessities may be interrupted during and after a storm. Service and utility providers will work as hard as possible to return the region to normal. This will not be instantaneous, but rather require many hours of hard work. That is why the Government of Canada recommends that at a minimum everyone develop a personalized emergency plan and have a 72-hour emergency kit.    

The emergency plan can be completed online at It takes about 20 minutes to complete.   

 Check the weather before going outside and/or travelling. That way you can be sure to dress appropriately for the expected weather.  Multiple layer of loose fitting clothing is recommended, to adjust for changing weather or activity levels. Keep skin covered up in extreme cold, as frostbite can occur within minutes.  

Symptoms of frostbite can include numbness, white/grayish skin area, skin that feels unusually firm or waxy. Make sure to talk to your Nurse Practitioner or doctor or call Telehealth Ontario (1-866-797-0000) if you suspect you have frostbite.

For more information about any of the free services offered by your local Family Health Team ask your doctor or nurse practitioner during your next visit, visit the website or google ‘family health team locations’.


January 12, 2018


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