Stay safe, and know where to go for the right care this busy winter season.
Winter can be a busy time of year, and it often comes with an increase in people visiting the emergency department and other community health-care sites.
We encourage you to look after yourself this winter by preventing injury and illness, and seeking care when you need it. For critical, life-threatening conditions, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency department. For other non-life-threatening matters, there are other options to seek care during the winter season.
During this busy winter season, we thank you for your patience as we continue to provide safe, quality care.
Tips to stay safe and healthy this winter
Avoid slips and falls
Another way to avoid the emergency department is to prevent slips and falls. Everyone is at risk for falls, especially during inclement winter weather when sidewalks can be icy. We have a number of resources, including a brochure and a home activity program to help you understand and avoid falls.
For seniors and those with elderly family members, it is important to note that many falls are preventable. There are a number of proactive steps you can take to reduce your risk of experiencing a fall:
- These include improving your mobility and balance; increasing your physical activity and muscle strength and following the Canadian guidelines for calcium and vitamin D consumption.
- Keep your body active:
- Strength, balance and flexibility exercises, such as lifting light weights, stair climbing, yoga, and tai chi.
- Exercises that promote endurance, such as walking and dancing.
- You should also organize regular vision check-ups and correct vision problems; review your medications with your doctor or pharmacist; and reduce trip and slip hazards in your home or outdoors.
- The British Columbia Falls & Injury Prevention Coalition offers information and resources to help prevent falls through its Finding Balance website.
Consider the following safety tips from the Canada Safety Council for safe winter walking:
- Plan ahead so you have enough time to get where you're going.
- Walk on cleared walkways if there is ice and snow on the ground.
- Use boots or shoes that fit well and have a thick, non-slip tread sole.
- Use a cane, ski poles or walking sticks to help with balance. If using a cane, attach a retractable ice pick to the end.
Winter sports and recreation
Staying active is an important way to stay healthy and can help you avoid serious injury over the long term. During the winter, many people will turn to various winter sports and outdoor recreational activities. Active & Safe Central provides injury prevention and safety information and resources for skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, hockey, ringette and 45 other sports and recreational activities.
Winter road safety
Leave lots of time to get to your destination so you are not rushing and remember to take weather and road conditions into account.
Be mindful of driver fatigue, especially when driving long distances after a heavy meal. Driver fatigue slows reaction time, decreases awareness, impairs judgment, and increases your risk of crashing.
Vaccinations for respiratory illnesses
Getting vaccinated against both COVID-19 and influenza is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your loved ones this respiratory season, as it reduces your risk of developing serious illness which may require hospitalization.
In B.C., everyone six months and older is recommended to get an annual influenza vaccine, especially those at greatest risk from infection including children under five years, adults 65 years and older, pregnant people and those with some chronic conditions.
Those registered in the GetVaccinated system will receive a notification to book their influenza appointment through this platform. Alternatively, people can phone the provincial call centre (toll-free) to book their influenza vaccine appointment: 1.833.838.2323.
For COVID-19 immunizations, anyone five years and above is recommended to receive a fall booster dose to prolong their immune response coming into respiratory season during colder months. Once you are eligible for a COVID-19 booster dose, you will receive a notification through the province's Get Vaccinated system via email or text message.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if I have a general health concern?
If your condition is not life-threatening, visit your doctor, nurse practitioner, or care provider first. Same-day urgent in-person or virtual appointments are often available. Visit pathwaysmedicalcare.ca for primary care (day-to-day health care) options in your community.
What if my family doctor, a nurse practitioner or care provider is not available, or I don’t have one?
What if I am just looking for health advice?
Contact HealthLinkBC at 8-1-1, which is available 24/7 in multiple languages, or visit the HealthLink BC website.
What if I need my prescription refilled and my doctor's office is closed?
For an urgent medication refill, speak with your pharmacist. They have the ability to renew most medications. Your family doctor may also be able to schedule a virtual appointment to refill prescriptions.
How can I access mental health and substance use services?
Visit the accessing mental health and substance use services page for more information. View all our mental health and substance use services. A detailed list of substance use services is also available here.
Where can I find information on COVID-19 and vaccination?
For information on COVID-19, visit BCCDC.ca/Covid19. Non-medical information about COVID-19 is available 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., 7 days a week at 1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268-4319).
Vaccination continues to be our best protection against serious illness due to COVID-19 infection. Ensure you are up to date on your immunizations against the virus. Visit ImmunizeBC.ca for further information.
How do I get my flu vaccination?
In B.C., everyone six months and older is recommended to get an annual influenza vaccine, especially those at greatest risk from infection, including children under five years, adults 65 years and older, pregnant people and those with some chronic conditions.
Getting your influenza vaccine reduces your risk of developing serious illness if you become infected with this virus. This year, there are a number of places you can get immunized against influenza: Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) COVID-19 booster clinics will also serve as influenza clinics, along with community pharmacies and physician and nurse practitioner offices.
Critical or life threatening condition? Do not wait.
For major injuries, trouble breathing, symptoms of stroke or heart attack, loss of consciousness, severe bleeding, and more, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency department. Request that a copy of your medical reports be sent to your family doctor or nurse practitioner.