The weather is colder, days are shorter and many of us may find it hard to get enough physical activity. The snow and ice can create hazards that can make walking, playing and working outdoors difficult. It is also flu and cold season and many of us will come down with the flu or catch a cold. Throughout the winter, it is important that we continue to stay active, eat healthy, and take care of our families and ourselves.
Learn about staying healthy and safe this season.
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an illness caused by a coronavirus. COVID-19 has spread worldwide, including to British Columbia, and has been declared a global pandemic. Symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to other respiratory illnesses including the flu and common cold.
To learn more about coronavirus disease (COVID-19), including how to reduce your risk of infection and what to do if you think you have coronavirus disease, and to access coronavirus disease-related resources, see our Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) health feature. For additional information on coronavirus disease, visit BC Centre for Disease Control - COVID-19.
The flu is an infection of the upper airway caused by an influenza virus. Every year there is a time where there are more outbreaks of the flu. This is called flu season. For more information about the flu, flu vaccine and flu season, visit our Influenza (Flu) Season health feature.
Use the Influenza Clinic Finder to find a flu clinic in B.C.
Throughout the winter, temperatures will drop and it may be very cold outside. Learn about cold exposure and the steps you can take to protect yourself and your family:
- Cold Exposure: Ways the Body Loses Heat
- Cold Exposure: What Increases Your Risk of Injury?
- Cold Temperature Exposure
- Dry Skin and Itching
- Hypothermia and Cold Temperature Exposure
Emergency shelters provide a temporary place to sleep, eat and wash for anyone who is homeless or at risk of homelessness. Some shelters may offer additional services such as meals, secure area for belongings and a resource room with computers, phone or TV. Access to medical support, support staff and individualized help from a caseworker may be available. For emergency shelter information and resources, including extreme weather shelters, see the Emergency Shelter Program.
Depression, Anxiety and Stress
The holidays can be a stressful time for many people. The shorter, colder days may cause some of us to experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Learn more about depression, anxiety and stress:
- Depression and the Holidays
- Mental Health
- Quick Tips: Reducing Holiday Stress
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
- Stress Management
Falls and Injuries
The snow and ice can create hazards that make walking, playing and working outside a little trickier than in the warmer months. Shovelling snow and doing winter activities, such as snowboarding and skating, can increase the risk of falling and hurting yourself. Learn more about how to prevent falls and injuries:
- Back Problems and Injuries
- Finger, Hand and Wrist Injuries
- Preventing Falls in Older Adults
- Seniors' Falls Can Be Prevented
- Toe, Foot and Ankle Injuries
Other Common Illnesses during Winter
In addition to colds and flu, some conditions and illnesses are more common or are worse during the winter months. Learn more about some of these common conditions:
- Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)
- Ear Infections
- Gastroenteritis in Adults and Older Children
- Norovirus (HealthLinkBC File #87)
- Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Infection
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Sore Throat and Other Throat Problems
Healthy Eating During the Holidays
Eating well during the holiday season can be a challenge. Click on the links below to learn more about how you can enjoy the holiday festivities while continuing to eat healthy:
- Eating Healthy at Holiday Parties
- Healthy Eating Guidelines for Lower Sodium (Salt) Eating
- Healthy Snacks for Adults (HealthLinkBC File #68i)
- Heart Healthy Tips for Celebrations: Guidelines for Eating and Celebrations
- How to Stay Motivated: Meet Your Goals for The Year
- Lighten Up Your Holiday Recipes
- Manage Holiday Cheer One Drink at a Time
- Meal and Snack Ideas for Your 1 to 3 Year Old Child (HealthLinkBC File #69e)
Cooler weather and fewer hours of daylight may mean changing some of your physical activities. Learn about how you and your family can stay active throughout the winter:
- Fitness: Getting and Staying Active
- Physical Activity for Children and Teenagers
- Physical Activity in Winter
- Quick Tips: Getting Active as a Family
- Quick Tips: Staying Active in Cold Weather
As we start a new year, many of us will set goals for our health. For some of us that may mean quitting smoking. Learn more about quitting smoking or vaping and the smoking cessation program for B.C. residents:
- Interactive Tool: Are You Ready to Quit Smoking?
- Quit Smoking
- Quitting Smoking (HealthLinkBC File #30c)
- The Harmful Effects of Second-hand Smoke (HealthLinkBC File #30a)
- Tobacco Products are not a Safe Alternative to Cigarettes (HealthLinkBC File #30b)
When to Visit the Emergency Room
The Emergency Room (ER) in hospitals can be very busy, especially during the holidays. Always go to the ER if you have been in a major accident or for potentially life-threatening symptoms like:
- Trouble breathing, or catching your breath
- Severe abdominal or chest pain/pressure
- Weakness or tingling on one side of your body
- Loss of consciousness
- Heavy bleeding
For those with non-emergency health questions and concerns, there may be better options than visiting an ER. Calling your family doctor or care provider or going to a walk-in clinic may resolve your health concern. If you need urgent, same day care, consider an Urgent and Primary Care Centre (UPCC).
Urgent and Primary Care Centres (UPCCs) provide better access to same-day, urgent, non-emergency health care, including in the evening and on weekends. They are an alternative to visiting emergency departments for issues that do not need to be seen in a hospital. For example, patients who require medical attention within 12 to 24 hours for something like a sprain, minor cut or burn can visit an Urgent and Primary Care Centre. For more information on UPCCs and to find out if there is a location close to you, see Urgent and Primary Care Centres.
If you are unsure if a health concern is an emergency, call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 for advice.
Taking a proactive approach to your health can also help you make decisions on when to seek care. Click on the links below for more information:
BCCDC: Safer celebrations and ceremonies
With COVID-19 still a concern across the province, here are some things you can consider to help make celebrations safer for everyone.
Fraser Health Authority
For tips to keep you fit, healthy and happy over winter, visit Your healthy winter guide
For tips to keep you fit, healthy and happy over winter, visit Holiday wellness: Tips to stay safe this season
Northern Health Authority
For tips on staying safe while skiing, snowmobiling and other winter activities, see Winter Sport and Rec Safety
Vancouver Coastal Health
For ways to prevent falls this winter, see Fall Prevention Tips
For ways to choose the right place for care, see Holiday Care
ImmunizeBC works to improve the health of British Columbians and reduce the number of infections by vaccine-preventable diseases. They provide information on immunizations to individuals, families and health care providers. They also provide tools to make it easier for B.C. families to get immunized:
- A Parent’s Guide to Vaccination (PDF 1.72 MB)
- Get immunization reminders by text message!
- Public Health Unit Finder
Last updated: December 2020