Ottawa Public Health

How to protect yourself and others against cold winter weather


Ottawa Public Health (OPH) and Ottawa Paramedics are reminding residents to take precautions against the cold this winter. Be prepared for winter and lower your risk of frostbite and hypothermia.

Dress for the weather.

The key to staying warm is dressing in layers. Three layers are recommended:olderman_hood_shutterstock_123444643 

  • Layer 1 – the layer closest to your skin should be clothing that wicks moisture away
  • Layer 2 – a warm insulating layer such as a sweater or sweatshirt
  • Layer 3 – an outer layer that protects you from wind and moisture

Cover as much exposed skin as possible to prevent frostbite. Mittens or gloves, hats and scarves are very important to protect against heat loss and frostbite.  Boots should be warm and preferably waterproof.

Monitor local weather forecasts and storm warnings

  • At -15 Celsius, the risk of hypothermia increases significantly and prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can result in severe injury and even death.
  • With a wind chill of -25, the risk of frostbite increases substantially. OPH issues Frostbite Advisories to local agencies and community partners whose clients are most vulnerable to the cold such as the homeless and small children.
  • When the wind chill reaches -35, a Frostbite Warning is issued to the public at large to advise everyone to take extra precautions against the cold.

Prevent falls

Footwear with good traction is recommended when surfaces are slippery. Using ice-grips which slide over most footwear can help prevent slipping. Consider carrying a small amount of sand, grit or non-clumping cat litter with you to sprinkle on icy patches. The City has placed bright yellow grit boxes in 56 locations around Ottawa for residents to use. The yellow grit boxes are located close to steep hills, and in areas where there are many pedestrians and/or seniors. Residents are encouraged to spread the grit on slippery spots on sidewalks and other problem areas.

Safety tips for children

  • Closely monitor children and only go outside for very short periods of time when the temperature is below -25ºC, or whenMom_Baby_Playing_Winter_Low_Res the wind chill is -28 or greater
  • Make sure children always wear a hat that fully covers their ears.
  • Use neck warmers instead of scarves.
  • Take frequent breaks inside.
  • Cover the skin with layers of clothing.
  • Always remove children’s wet clothing and boots immediately.

Assistance for low-income earners

Call Service Ontario at 2-1-1 for help finding cold weather assistance programs available in our community. Service Ontario links people to agencies that can help in finding warm winter clothing and other supports.

Help for vulnerable populations

Homeless people are particularly vulnerable to cold weather. Please call 3-1-1 if you see someone living outdoors in extreme cold conditions. The City of Ottawa call centre answers calls on a priority basis and makes referrals to the appropriate services.

These services include:

  • Emergency sleeping spaces in Ottawa shelters
  • Street outreach services to encourage homeless people to come in from the cold
  • Provision of emergency transportation and other services by the Salvation Army

Look for our regular extreme-weather updates on Twitter @OttawaHealth

Check out for more tips on dressing for cold weather, winter driving  and how to spot the symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite.

For more information, visit or call 613-580-6744 (TTY: 613-580-9656).
You can also connect with OPH on Facebook, Twitter (@OttawaHealth) and Pinterest or the Ottawa Paramedic Service on Twitter (@OttawaParamedic).

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