Winter First Aid

As autumn turns to winter and the snow begins to fall, we have to be prepared to deal with typical winter dangers. With ice covering sidewalks and driveways, our risk of falling increases, bringing with it an increasing number of sprains and strains. And dropping temperatures make us vulnerable to hypothermia and frostbite. Here are some guidelines to help you deal with these winter emergencies.

Sprains and strains

Sprains and strains occur when joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments are stretched beyond their normal range—for example, as a result of falling on an icy surface. To treat one of these injuries, remember the acronym RICE, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

Rest the injured limb. Avoid putting weight on the area until it has healed.

Ice the injury to prevent swelling, but don’t apply the ice directly to the skin. Place a thin cloth between the ice and the skin, then keep the ice in place for about 20 minutes each hour.

Compress the injury with an elastic bandage or specialized sleeve. This will provide support to the injured area and help prevent swelling.

Elevate the limb to a level above the heart. This makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood to the injury and cause swelling.

In addition, nonprescription pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can ease the discomfort, but don’t give ASA to anyone under the age of 18. Your London Drugs pharmacists can help you select the best medication to meet your needs.


If your internal body temperature drops below 35° C (95° F), you can slip into hypothermia, a state when the body’s temperature is not high enough to support normal metabolism. Children, the elderly, and people with a low percentage of body fat have a higher risk of developing this problem.

Hypothermia causes moderate to severe shivering, mental confusion, lack of coordination, and a change in the heart rate—either a significant increase or decrease. The extremities may turn blue, and the skin may become very pale, blue, or swollen.

If you suspect that someone has hypothermia, call 911 immediately. If the person either stops breathing or the breathing becomes very shallow or slow, begin CPR. If CPR isn’t necessary, try to get the person away from the cold. Take the person inside and if the clothing is wet, help the person change into dry clothing. If that isn’t possible, wrap the person in a warm blanket and try to get the person off the frozen ground.

Applying heat to the body can cause injury. A better option is to apply a warm compress to the central areas of the body—head, neck, chest, groin. Do not give the person alcohol or massages.


Frostbite happens when the skin and tissue beneath it freeze up and damage the cell walls. The fingers, cheeks, chin, ears, and nose are the most vulnerable areas.

Signs of frostbite include skin that has either turned red or has become very pale, skin that is hard or looks waxen, and feelings of prickling or numbness. Very severe frostbite can cause blisters and significant pain.

If someone near you appears to have frostbite, get the person out of the cold if possible. If that isn’t possible, cover the part of the face that appears to be affected or tuck the hands into the armpits to warm them up. Remove any pieces of wet clothing. Do not rub the skin, as this can cause further damage.

Once you have the person in a warm environment, soak the frostbitten area in warm—not hot—water for 15 to 30 minutes. Avoid using direct heat such as a heating pad or fireplace. Over-the-counter pain relievers may be helpful, as rewarming can be uncomfortable. As frostbitten skin warms, it should turn red as sensation returns. If the area stays numb or if blisters develop, seek medical attention.

Your winter first aid kit

An important part of preparing for winter emergencies is to have a properly stocked first aid kit on hand. Here are some general guidelines for what to include, but your London Drugs pharmacists can help you customize a kit for your family’s needs.

• absorbent compress dressings
• adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
• adhesive cloth tape
• antibiotic ointment
• antiseptic wipes
• elastic bandages
• emergency blanket, mittens, socks, hat
• first aid instruction manual
• hand sanitizer
• hydrocortisone cream
• instant cold compress
• instant hand or foot warmers
• non-latex gloves
• oral thermometer (non-mercury/non-glass)
• OTC pain reliever
• scissors
• sterile gauze pads
• tweezers

Read other articles in our Fall-Winter 2021 volume of our Bettercare magazine here.

How to Build an Emergency Kit for All Types of Disasters

If an emergency situation developed quickly, would you know what to do? In the event of flooding, a natural disaster, or an earthquake, it’s important to be prepared. Experts agree that you need to be prepared to survive for 72 hours with the possibility of having no water or power.

First Aid Kit Emergency Preparedness London Drugs

We’re proud to be early adopters of the Partners in Preparedness campaign with PreparedBC. Our hope is to make it easier for you to get ready for an emergency by reminding you of what goes in an emergency kit and giving you an opportunity to purchase what you need.

Key things to have in your emergency kit are:

  1. Water – estimate four litres per person per day for drinking and sanitation.
  2. Food – gather food that won’t spoil such as canned goods, protein energy bars, dried fruits, and meal replacement beverages. Don’t forget to pack the can opener. Include hard candies, chocolate, and gum in your kit as a lift for your senses.
  3. Essentialsflashlights, extra batteries, candles, matches, garbage bags, a blanket, hand sanitizer, whistle, and a small mirror are all must-haves.
  4. First Aid – ensure your first aid kit is up to date and medications have not expired, include gauze, pads and tape along with an assortment of bandages. Include several pairs of disposable latex gloves, face masks, antibacterial hand wash, and a small pair of scissors.
  5. Communication – battery-powered or a wind-up AM/FM radio to keep updated on current conditions.
  6. Seasonal clothing and footwear along with a dust mask in case of poor air quality.
  7. Entertainment – cards or any other board games. Crossword puzzle or pocket book to keep you occupied while waiting for the power to return.
  8. Additional non-essential but important items include duct tape, Swiss army knife, Kleenex, toilet paper, city map, and recent photographs of loved ones in case of separation.

Prepared emergency kits are available from London Drugs, SOS Emergency Response Technologies, and St. John Ambulance, but you can pack your bag to suit your family’s needs. All of these items should be ideally stored in a conveniently located and durable backpack.

Emergency Preparedness Checklist London Drugs


During an emergency, if a London Drugs store is able to remain open, we will offer:

  • PharmacyContact us at Customer Service for the latest information on your local store and for any urgent pharmacy inquiries 1-888-991-2299
  • Charging Stations – we will have charging stations available for your electronic devices
  • Supplies and emergency kits – our staff will be happy to help you find an emergency kit or help you to create your own that fits your needs
  • Batteries and Lighting, Candles – we’re here to help with emergency lighting needs from flashlights, batteries to candles
  • Water – it is always important to have an emergency supply of water at the ready

Emergency preparedness is always a good idea. Educate yourself, your family, and your friends on the potential risks, create a plan, and stay prepared for any situation that might arise. 

Emergency Pharmacy Services and Complimentary Charging Stations for Alberta Wildfire Evacuees


Our thoughts are with everyone in Fort McMurray and surrounding area during this very difficult time. We are currently assembling essential supplies and staff to support evacuees in and around the area. In addition, donations to the Canadian Red Cross can be made online at or at any London Drugs location.


Your emergency preparedness kit: Essential items for a range of disasters


During an emergency if a London Drugs store is able to remain open we will offer:

  • PharmacyContact us at Customer Service for the latest information on your local store and for any urgent pharmacy inquiries 1-888-991-2299
  • Charging Stations – we will have charging stations available for your electronic devices
  • Supplies and emergency kits – our staff will be happy to help you find an emergency kit or help you to create your own that fits your needs
  • Batteries and Lighting, Candles – we’re here to help with emergency lighting needs from flashlights, batteries to candles
  • Water – It is always important to have an emergency supply of water at the ready
  • Less Urgent Inquiries –  We’ll field any question at

* * *


London Drugs bettercare – First Aid & Medication Safety

Being in charge of your family’s health is a full-time job. There are always scrapes, stings, minor burns, and other emergencies that need to be addressed. The best way to tackle these problems is to prepare for them before they occur by investing the time to learn about first aid techniques and medication safety to make your home a safe haven.

Dangerous situations can happen anytime and virtually anywhere. In Canada, in most areas emergency assistance can by reached by dialling 911 on any telephone, including pay phones and cellular phones. Everyone in your household, even young children, should be instructed to call 911 in case of emergency. If 911 service is not available in your area, find out the number to call in emergencies and post it—along with other emergency information, such as doctor’s name and phone number—near your telephone for easy reference. Also keep your London Drugs pharmacy number by the phone. Our pharmacists are medication experts who can answer your questions whenever you have them—not just in emergencies.

Consider taking a first aid course from an organization such as St. John’s Ambulance or the Red Cross. This will give you the opportunity to practice your first aid skills in a calm environment so that you’ll be better prepared if an emergency does occur. You may also want to stop by your local bookstore and pick up a good first aid manual for your home and car.

Most first aid situations around the home aren’t emergencies and don’t require a 911 call. They are usually the minor cuts, bruises, and burns that are part of everyday life. Here are some tips for dealing with some of the more common situations.

Minor, or first-degree, burns usually turn the skin red and can sometimes cause swelling and pain. In the event of a minor burn, take the following steps:

  • Cool the burn. Hold the burned area under lukewarm running water for 15 to 30 minutes. Cooling the burn reduces swelling by taking the heat away from the skin. Don’t put ice on the burn, as this may cause frostbite, further damaging the skin.
  • Apply lotion. Once a burn is completely cooled, apply an aloe vera lotion, an antibiotic ointment, or a moisturizer to prevent dryness and make the injury feel more comfortable. However, do not coat the burn with butter or a thick ointment such as petroleum jelly, because this traps the heat in the skin.
  • Cover the burn. Wrap a sterile gauze bandage loosely around the burned area. Bandaging keeps air off the area, reduces pain, and protects blistered skin.

Minor burns usually heal in about one to two weeks. Watch for signs of infection such as increased pain, redness, fever, swelling, or oozing. If infection develops, seek medical help immediately.

Cuts and Scrapes
Most small cuts and scrapes don’t require a trip to the emergency room, but it is important to care for them properly to avoid infection and other complications. The following guidelines can help you treat simple wounds:

  • Stop the bleeding. Use gentle pressure applied over a clean cloth or bandage.
  • Clean the wound. Rinse the wound with clear water; soap may irritate the injury.
  • Apply an antibiotic. After you clean the wound, apply a thin layer of antibiotic
    cream to help keep the surface moist and kill bacteria that could cause infection.
  • Cover the wound. Bandages help the wound stay clean, keeping harmful
    bacteria out.
  • Change the dressing. Change the bandage at least once daily to keep it clean
    and prevent infection.
  • Get medical treatment for deep wounds. A wound that cuts deeply through the skin may require stitches. If in doubt, see your doctor immediately.
  • Watch for signs of infection. Visit your doctor if the wound doesn’t heal properly or if you notice any redness, warmth, or swelling.
  • Get a tetanus shot. Doctors recommend getting one every ten years.

Keeping dangerous substances locked away is the best way to prevent poisoning. However, if you suspect someone has been poisoned, look for the following signs:

  • Burns or redness around the mouth and lips.
  • Breath that smells like chemicals such as gasoline or paint thinner.
  • Burns, stains, and odours on or around the person.
  • Vomiting, difficulty breathing, sleepiness, confusion, or other unexpected signs.

If you believe someone in your family has been poisoned, follow these steps:

  • Call your local poison control centre and follow their instructions. Directions on the product label telling you what to do may be inaccurate or out of date.
  • If the victim is unconscious or has swallowed a substance that is acidic, caustic, or has a petroleum base (such as gasoline or household cleaners), get the victim to the hospital immediately. Do not induce vomiting.
  • If the victim has not passed out and if the substance is something that is normally swallowed (such as medicine), the poison control centre may tell you to induce vomiting.
  • Get medical attention immediately. If you have identified the poison, bring the container with you. If you don’t know what the poison is but the person has vomited, bring a sample of the vomit with you for analysis.

Medication Safety

Chances are your family has a cabinet full of medications—from over-the-counter products to prescription drugs. Lurking in the back corner of your medicine cabinet may be some expired medications, and perhaps some prescription drugs you no longer use.

An important step in the proper use of medications is to educate yourself about the specific drugs you and your family are taking. All of your family’s medications need to be carefully organized to avoid dangerous mistakes. Here are a few tips to help keep you and your family safe:

  • Storage: Ask your doctor or pharmacist for directions on how to store your medications. Certain medications need to be refrigerated and others should be kept in a cool, dry place. Make sure that all medications are in child-proof containers and are stored well out of your children’s reach.
  • Drug interactions: If you’re taking more than one medication, ask your pharmacist to check for any possible drug interactions.
  • Side effects: If you develop what you think is a side effect, contact your doctor or pharmacist immediately. There may be another medication with fewer side effects that can be substituted.
  • Allergic reactions: Allergic reactions from medications may include difficulty breathing, skin rashes, itching, swelling, racing heartbeat, nausea, severe diarrhea, and feeling faint. Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you experience any of these symptoms after taking a new medicine. If the reaction involves difficulty breathing, call for emergency assistance immediately.
  • Expiry dates: Unused and expired medications can be dangerous. Do a yearly inventory of your medicine cabinet and dispose of outdated or unused medications.
  • Never share: The medications prescribed by your doctor were meant to treat your particular medical problem. Never share your medication with anyone else.
  • Follow directions: Read the labels carefully and follow the directions to the letter. Be sure to finish the full course of your medication. Stopping a medication too early can cause the illness to return or make it more difficult to treat.