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Stay active, healthy and safe this winter

Tips for a safe and healthy winter

Physical activity keeps the body strong and healthy and can improve mental health. Winter is great season for outdoor activities, such as skating and sledding, but extreme cold temperatures, snow and ice can pose health and safety risks for children and adults. Fortunately, there are steps you can follow to stay safer this winter when being active outdoors.

Cold weather is common in the Simcoe Muskoka region. Exposure to extremely cold temperatures can cause serious and sometimes life-threatening health problems. The good news is there are steps you can take to protect yourself and those you care about by understanding how cold weather can affect your health and by taking appropriate actions to reduce the risk.

  • Know the weather conditions before going outside. Check the forecast and pay attention to weather alerts and travel advisories.
  • Consider shortening outdoor play for children when temperatures are between -20ºC to -25ºC (with or without wind chill) and keep children indoors if temperatures reach or drop below -27ºC (with or without wind chill). More advice about winter safety for your children can be found at Caring for Kids, developed by the Canada Paediatric Society.
  • Shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing
  • Chest pain or arrhythmia (an irregular heartbeat)
  • Fingers or toes change colour, or you have pain, numbness, or a tingling sensation in the arms or legs.
  • Muscle pain, stiffness, swelling or weakness.
  • Pale, itchy skin.

More information about the risks of cold weather and how to protect yourself and those you care about is available at

Although it can be tempting to stay indoors when it’s cold out, be sure to take advantage of outdoor physical activity during the winter months. Besides being good for your overall health, outdoor exercise can lower stress, increase the release of feel-good hormones (endorphins) and help you forget about your worries for a while. Some of the ways you can be active and have fun outside include:

  • Going for a walk in your neighbourhood or a hike in nature with friends and family.
  • Walking your children or grandchildren to and from school each day.
  • Getting outside with the kids. Building a snowman or making snow angels.
  • Hitting the slopes - Go sledding, skiing, or snowboarding.
  • Going snowshoeing.

More information on physical activity is available on the health unit’s web pages or check out the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for recommendations on various types of indoor and outdoor physical activity.

Wearing appropriate clothing can help you keep safe and warm while being active during winter months:

  • Dress in layers of clothing to preserve body heat and include long underwear/base layer, a fleece or wool sweater mid layer, and top it off with a wind/waterproof jacket. Avoid wearing cotton next to your skin as it absorbs sweat and stays wet.
  • Wear a hat, gloves or mittens, and a scarf to protect the chin, lips, and cheeks.
  • Protect exposed skin with sunscreen (SPF30 or higher) and lip balm.
  • Wear a face mask and googles if you are participating in winter activities such as skiing, snowmobiling, and skating to protect your face from frostbite and windburn.
  • Wear a protective helmet when participating in snow sports to reduce the risk of head injuries.
  • Wear sunglasses with UVA and UVB rating.
  • Wear bright colours or add reflective material to clothing so others see you better.

To help prevent slips and falls on ice or in slushy and snowy conditions, a well fitted boot with a good tread that offers warmth and stability is recommended. Look for the following when choosing winter boots:

  • Well insulated, waterproof and light in weight.
  • A thick, non-slip tread sole with a low and wide heel.
  • A raised cross-hatched pattern on soles is ideal and rubber or neoprene soles provide good traction on ice and snow.
  • The larger the area of contact between the shoe and the walking surface, the better.

While ice grippers on footwear can improve walking on hard packed snow and ice and may help prevent falls, grippers become dangerously slippery and must be removed before walking on smooth surfaces such as stone, tile, and ceramic.

Winter weather can quickly change road and travel conditions for drivers. To help ensure you get to where you need to go this winter there are steps you can take to get your vehicle winter ready.

  • Get a maintenance checkup for your vehicle.
  • Put winter tires on your vehicle to improve traction and shorten braking distances in snowy and icy conditions.
  • Keep your fuel tank at least half full to reduce moisture in the fuel system and add weight to your vehicle.
  • Keep an ice scraper/snow brush and washer fluid that works to -40oC.
  • Have a winter emergency car kit before you travel and bring warm clothing.
  • Avoid travelling on ice-covered roads, overpasses and bridges, or when visibility is poor.

  • When the temperature drops, check in on neighbours, friends and family who may be at risk during extreme cold weather.
  • Frequently check on children who are playing outside and ensure they remain properly dressed.
  • Notify friends and family of your location when planning to be away from home, near or far, to take part in outdoor activities, such as going into the bush to hike or travelling a distance to do some skiing.

When the weather is colder, people tend to spend more time indoors. With increased respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections, rising numbers of seasonal influenza cases and the ongoing transmission of COVID-19 in our communities, it’s recommended to use multiple layers of protection to protects against the ‘triple threat’ of infection and severe illness that include:

  • Know your risk by checking the Simcoe Muskoka COVID-19 Community Risk Level, and determining the best ways to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 infection and serious illness.
  • Wear a mask in indoor public settings, including schools and child care settings. This recommendation includes children two to five years of age if they can tolerate a mask.
  • Get the annual flu shot and staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations.
  • Stay home if you are ill and keeping children home from school or child care if they are ill.
  • Screen yourself and children daily using the Screening Tool and following its instructions.
  • Wash hands and regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces.

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