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Extreme cold temperatures returned this week. The Weather Network is here to help with tips on how to win winter and stay prepared.

31 ways to cope with the coming winter cold

Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Monday, December 14, 2015, 1:14 PM - Though many parts of Canada are experiencing a slow start to winter, rest assured: The coldest season is on its way.

'No problem,' you say. In Canada, we Canadians are a hearty bunch and can take whatever Mother Nature throws out as a test.

And then you step outside, and realize it's -30oC, feeling like -40 with the wind chill, and you're unprepared for it. All that is about to change with The Weather Network's complete guide to dealing with the bitter cold.

WINTER FORECAST: Here's everything you need to make it through the coming season

Protect yourself

Aside from dressing for the conditions, here's how you can keep from being overwhelmed from the cold:

  • Lay off the booze: That warm feeling you get from that rum is heat rushing through your expanded blood vessels. That actually increases heat loss, putting you more at risk.
  • Walk/run: The increased activity will warm you up. Make sure you're dressed properly.
  • Find shelter: If you must go outside, stay out of the wind as much as possible, even if it's huddling in a ditch or staying in your car.
  • Learn the signs of hypothermia: If your body temperature begins to fall, you run the risk of hypothermia. Watch for drowsyness, unclear thinking, or problems with movement or coordination.
  • Cover up as you can: If your extremities, nose, chin, ears or cheeks lose feeling and colour, you're at risk of frostbite, which can occur in just a few minutes in temperatures colder than -30oC.

Dress for the conditions

Don't be in denial about how cold it is. If you have to go outside, dress appropriately.

Here are some tips from Environment Canada:

  • Synthetic and wool fabrics provide better insulation. Some synthetic fabrics are designed to keep perspiration away from your body which keep you dry and further reduce your risk.
  • Dress in layers with a wind resistant outer layer. You can remove layers if you get too warm (before you start sweating) or add a layer if you get cold.
  • Wear warm socks, gloves, a hat and scarf in cold weather. Be sure to cover your nose to protect it.
  • If you get wet, change into dry clothing as soon as possible. You lose heat faster when you're wet.

Get your home ready

The cold can invade and damage your home. Get it up to snuff before the frigid weather REALLY sets in

  • The City of Toronto recommends an internal temperature of 21oC, and landlords in that city are required by law to keep the heat at that level between September 15 and June 1.
  • Check in on your heating system regularly, and arrange for maintenance to prevent breakdowns.
  • Shut off exterior taps to prevent freezing.
  • Insulate water pipes that run near the exterior walls of your home.
  • Reverse your ceiling fan to funnel warm air back downwards.
  • Stock your home with power outage kits: Blankets, non-perishable foods, candles, water, flashlights, batteries and, if you can afford it, a small generator.
  • Make sure your attic is properly insulated.
  • Add weather strips to windows and/or doors, if you think they're not properly insulated.
  • Keep smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in working order, especially if you have a wood stove, kerosene heater or generator.

Look after your pets

Your furry friends might need to go outside, but that fur coat doesn't make them immune from the cold.

Here are some tips from the American Veterinary Medical Association:

  • Know your pet: Different pets have different tolerances, with or without cold weather clothing. If you see signs that it's affecting them, get them indoors.
  • Keep them inside: They're just as susceptible to hypothermia as we are. Long-haired breeds have a higher tolerance, but they also have their limits.
  • Check the paws: While out on a walk, their feet may suffer from the effects of snow or a cold sidewalk, like cracked or bleeding paw pads. Watch for ice accumulation between their toes also. 
  • Dress 'em up: Especially for short-haired breeds, a good coat can ward off the chill on a walk. Make sure your pet sweaters are always dry.
  • Wipe them off: Their paws and bellies may pick up antifreeze, salt and other traces of de-icer. Wipe them down before they lick them off, risking poisoning.
  • Keep their food healthy: Extra weight may make the cold easier to bear, but it also carries the risk of other health problems. Find a balance.

Care for your car

A non-starting car in the morning is a nightmare, and driving in freezing conditions is risky. Minimize the chance of that happening to you:

  • Top up fluids: Not only keep your windshield wiper fluid at a good level, make sure it's designed to remain fluid in extreme cold conditions
  • Spray your car windows with 3:1 mixture of distilled vinegar and water to prevent icing. 
  • Check your oil: Make sure you're using a brand rated to retain its viscosity in cold weather.
  • Change the battery: You should do this every three years or so. With cold weather looming, that's as good a time as any.
  • Get a block heater: We're looking at you, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
  • Keep kitty litter handy: Spreading it beneath your tires can help defeat a slippery driveway. Your floor mats can also do in a pinch.
  • Get an emergency kit: If the car breaks down on the road due to the cold, you'll need: blankets, food and water, booster cables, flares, tire pump, and a bag of sand or cat litter (for traction), flashlight, battery-powered radio, and extra batteries, first-aid kit and plastic bags.

Think we missed any? Let us know in the comments section.

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