Staying safe during first cold weather stretch of the season
Vancouver, B.C. – As the region braces for the first blast of winter weather, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is offering some essential tips to help communities stay safe during this time.
The cold weather presents unique challenges and health-related risks, from increased incidences of slips and falls to hypothermia and frostbite. Individuals are urged to take proactive and preventative measures for their safety and well-being.
Whether facing a minor ailment or a serious condition, receiving the right care at the right place and time is vital. VCH offers a range of health-care access points for medical needs, from non-urgent to critical.
Below is the vital information for the winter season, including preventative strategies and guidance on where to access health care when needed. More comprehensive information is available at vch.ca/winter-weather.
Winter Health and Wellness Tips:
Preventing slips and falls:
- Beware of icy conditions as everyone is at risk. Property owners should remove snow and ice from sidewalks and clear storm drains of leaves and snow to prevent flooding.
- Walk safely by planning routes, choosing cleared pathways, opting for non-slip footwear, and considering the use of canes or walking aids to provide additional stability and support.
- While seniors may be at higher risk, remember many falls can be prevented. Stay active and to maintain your strength and balance.
- Use a slower and wider gait to better protect against falls. Walk slowly, take small steps, and point your toes out slightly to be more stable on icy paths.
Staying active and playing safe:
- Embrace recreational activities for their extensive health benefits.
- Wear appropriate protective gear, such as helmets and pads, and consider taking lessons for proper instruction.
- Learn about injuries, risk factors, and safety measures at activesafe.ca.
Ensuring road safety during winter conditions:
- Budget extra time for travel and be mindful of weather conditions.
- Remain vigilant to avoid driver fatigue.
- Equip your vehicle with winter tires and an emergency kit.
- Always leave plenty of space when passing pedestrians, cyclists and others.
While anyone not dressed warmly is at risk of negative health effects in winter weather conditions, some individuals are at greater risk of winter weather-related health effects:
- People who are unhoused or insecurely housed
- People living in inadequate housing, such as inadequate insulation, electricity or heat (including those living in a state of energy or fuel poverty)
- People spending long periods of time outdoors (for work, recreation, or transportation)
- Older adults
- Infants and young children
- People with pre-existing health conditions, including conditions or diseases of the heart or lungs or health conditions that impact blood circulation (e.g. diabetes, or certain medications that constrict blood vessels)
- People who use substances, including alcohol
During winter weather events, local governments and community organizations in the VCH region operate shelters or other public spaces (like libraries and community centres) where people can safely stay warm and avoid exposure to the cold. A complete list of shelters in the region can be found at BC Housing, https://smap.bchousing.org/
Health Care Navigation Guide:
This guide presents a general overview of care options for different needs. It is important to note that healthcare services and offerings may differ by location. VCH includes region-specific information at vch.ca/wintercare to assist in identifying local resources within various communities.
- Personalized care: Your family doctor or nurse practitioner knows your health needs best. If you don’t have one, register at HealthLinkBC.ca.
- General health questions: Call 8-1-1 to speak with a nurse any time.
- Pharmacy services: Visit SeeYourPharmacist.ca for prescription refills and minor issues. BC pharmacists treat select minor issues like allergies, cold sores, acne, pink eye, and UTIs.
- Mental health concerns: Visit vch.ca/MentalHealth.
- Non-life-threatening health issues: Visit an urgent and primary care centre for same-day care.
- Emergencies: Call 9-1-1 or go to the Emergency Department. Check wait times at EDWaitTimes.ca.
Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH)
Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is committed to delivering exceptional care to 1.25 million people, including the First Nations, Métis and Inuit in our region, within the traditional territories of the Heiltsuk, Kitasoo-Xai'xais, Lil'wat, Musqueam, N'Quatqua, Nuxalk, Samahquam, shíshálh, Skatin, Squamish, Tla'amin, Tsleil-Waututh, Wuikinuxv, and Xa'xtsa. VCH is British Columbia’s hub of health-care innovation, research and academic excellence, providing specialized care to patients throughout the province. Learn more at vch.ca.