Cold winter weather presents a number of health risks to Lloydminster residents, especially to older adults and people who work or exercise outdoors.
That’s the prognosis along with a word of warning from Dr. Raff Sayeed from the Family Medical Centre with the recent spat of Arctic temperatures top of mind.
“Cold weather is dangerous for everybody, but especially for older people because of the possibility they could suffer frostbite faster,” he said.
“Their skin is thinner; their circulation is poorer and those two are not very good combinations when it comes to older people.”
There is also a heightened risk of a hearth attack for anyone shovelling snow.
Cold temperatures cause a constriction or a narrowing of the blood vessels, putting extra stress on the heart.
Sayeed recommends people older than 40 or 50 should be extremely cautious when clearing snow.
“When they are shovelling snow, they should take their own time doing it; they should not push themselves so they don’t put any undue strain on their heart, which is not used to this kind of activity,” he said.
Sayeed added that extreme cold can also cause attacks of asthma in some people that are prone to it.
Cold weather combined with low humidity can also cause dry skin, but frostbite is the greater health risk compounded by stepping outside wearing improper clothing or being partially unprotected.
“If you go out for any long period with inadequate clothing, you’ll have a possibility, especially if you get stuck, of hypothermia which can lead to death,” said Sayeed.
With hypothermia, the body’s internal temperature falls too low and even prolonged exposure to mild cold can cause it.
“Symptoms are extreme shivering and eventually some people can even have a heart attack because of the extreme cold,” warned Sayeed.
For those who feel a need to exercise in the cold, Sayeed said it depends on their health condition whether or not they should check first with their personal physician.
“I don’t recommend people who are not used to exercising to exercise in the cold at all,” he said
Sayeed advises even those who are very active like runners and walkers to take extreme caution in the cold weather.
He says his clinic hasn’t treated any serious injuries from slipping on snow or ice recently noting patients with sprains or broken bones tend to go directly to the hospital.
However, he said they do see a few frostbite cases when the thermometer plummets.
Sayeed has some simple preventative advice for staying safe and sound in the dead of winter.
“If you don’t have to go out, don’t go out and, if you have to go out, make damn sure you are extremely extremely well clothed and warm and don’t stay out for too long unless you are that way,” he said.