A Devlin resident is warning others that going outside in the cold without bundling up first can pose a serious health risk.
Bruce Bellamy told the Times that his brother, Richard, passed away on Jan. 2 from a cardiac arrest he believes was brought on by him going outside in the extreme cold.
Bellamy explained his 69-year-old brother went outside on New Year's Day dressed only in shorts with no shoes—an annual tradition for him ever since the “Polar Plunge” began in Fort Frances.
He walked 70 feet from his residence, then turned around and walked 70 feet back before heading inside.
“He came into the house and he collapsed," Bruce Bellamy recalled. "He said he wasn't feeling good.”
When Bellamy went back to his brother's place the next morning and found him unresponsive, he called an ambulance.
Paramedics arrived and took him to the hospital but he died before he got there, Bellamy said.
“I want some public awareness of this," he remarked. "It killed him, or at least I think it killed him.”
Bellamy said he's very concerned about other people going outside without wearing protective clothing.
“Don't gamble your health with the cold," he warned. ”Don't try to do extreme stuff like my brother, Richard, did.
“It'll kill ya.”
The Northwestern Health Unit also reminds the public to take extra caution when spending time outdoors this winter.
“When temperatures reach minus-28 C or below, with or without the wind chill, the risk of a cold-related injury such as frostbite or hypothermia becomes much higher,” Thomas Nabb, manager of Environmental Health, said in a press release.
“For example, in minus-28 C, exposed skin can freeze in 10-30 minutes, or even sooner if the wind speed is faster,” he noted.
Cold-related injuries include frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite is a condition where the freezing of skin and underlying tissues occurs.
Signs and symptoms of frostbite include pale or waxy skin, swelling or blistering of the skin, or numbness or pain on the area.
Hypothermia is a condition where the core body temperature drops below 35 C due to cold exposure.
As the body loses heat, internal organs begin to shut down.
Signs and symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, slurred speech, weakness, confusion, pale skin colour, and slow, shallow breathing.
Cold-related injuries are medical emergencies. The health unit advises you to call 9-1-1 immediately if you are caring for or see someone who has been exposed to cold temperatures and shows any of the above signs and symptoms.
Those at greater risk of cold-related injuries include infants and children, the elderly, people with chronic conditions (i.e., heart diseases, respiratory diseases, or asthma), outdoor workers, sports enthusiasts, people who are homeless, and people lacking proper shelter, clothing, or food.
To prevent a cold-related injury, dress in layers of warm clothing and ensure extremities are covered with a hat, scarf, insulated gloves, and waterproof boots.
Stay dry, stay active, and try to reduce times of outdoor activity.
Be sure to check ears, nose, cheeks, chin, fingers, and toes for signs of frostbite.
As well, try to reschedule or cancel any planned outdoor activity if possible and keep infants and children inside.
Also be sure to check frequently on people at risk greater risk of cold-related injuries.
For more information on how to keep warm and stay safe this winter, visit www.nwhu.on.ca or download the NWHU Connect app on iOS devices.