Heat waves are uncomfortably high and usually humid temperatures, while cold waves, as the name would suggest, is the opposite. A cold wave is a weather phenomenon where the temperature dips cooler than usual within a 24 hour period of time. The rate at which the temperature falls is also taken into consideration.
Here in Canada temperatures range from approximately - 40˚ C to 40˚ C. This 80˚ C (176˚ F) difference is significant. Thankfully there is a transition time between these temperature extremes being the seasons, in order to prepare us for what is to come. I personally find it easier to transition from winter to spring to summer, than from summer to autumn to winter. The coldest temperature I have been out in is around - 52˚ C (- 62˚ F) with the wind chill factor. This was a short walk in my neighborhood at the time.
The wind chill factor is as important to take into consideration as is the humidex
during a heat wave. The wind chill factor and the humidex give us an
idea of the effects that variables such as humidity and temperature have
on us in a heat wave, or wind and cold have on our bodies in colder
As in any time of the year, remain properly hydrated during the day. Being properly hydrated is essential for the body at all times, and aids the body to perform all bodily functions properly.
Other problems occur, such as pipes freezing and higher heating costs, as well as damage to the environment in climates not used to cold temperatures. An example are oranges in Florida that had frozen in below average temperatures damaging the crops.
Cold waves may be a nuisance such as when the car refuses to start in the morning while trying to get to work, or dangerous due to cold related injuries that may occur. Dressing with proper clothing, preferably in layers instead of one large, thick external layer as well as covering all exposed skin areas is essential.
The body has many mechanisms in place to evacuate excess heat from our bodies, but has more difficulty in dealing with the effects of cold temperatures on our bodies. Whether having to deal with the heat or the cold, clothing which is our first line of defense from the elements, being properly hydrated and if possible removing or lessening the effects of temperature influences on our bodies is a must. Use whatever means is at your disposal.
If you are outside in a survival situation during a cold wave:
If you are wet because of sweating (avoid sweating in cold temperatures) or for some other reason, change into dry clothing if available, and take any other measures necessary to avoid becoming progressively hypothermic.
If you are in a vehicle, think twice about leaving it behind to go for help. If you have a cellphone and have a signal it is preferable to call for help. It is your call to make however as to whether to stay or go. Just be very careful with this decision. People have left their cars to only wind up succumbing to the elements.
Hydrate yourself using the appropriate techniques. Learn survival skills, it may very well save your live and the lives of your family or friends. Have a survival kit prepared in advance for any planned excursions out into the outdoors.
Remember that caloric requirements will increase in order to deal with the cold, particularly if you are hypothermic. As soon as you begin to shiver, you are exhibiting a sign of first stage hypothermia. Use fire to 'supplement' your calories by warming up your body externally instead of having your body burn up calories by needing to shiver to warm you up internally. If you have food, eating will help to increase your basic metabolic rate as well, creating heat.
Use your best judgment in any situation as to when and how much food to consume. This will depend upon several factors, some being how much food you have to begin with, your current physical condition, local food resources to replenish supplies and difficulty level involved to obtain food (hunting, foraging, fishing etc) and how long you estimate your predicament will last.
Also apply the other principles involved in the elements of survival.
Here is a link to help you to learn more about cold waves.