Thursday, January 31, 2019

Cold Weather is HERE


What is frostbite and hypothermia?

They are cold-related emergencies that may quickly become life or limb threatening.  Frostbite is the freezing of a specific body part such as fingers, toes, the nose or earlobes.  Hypothermia is abnormally low body temperature caused by exposure to extremely cold temperatures.  When the body is exposed to very cold air or water it requires energy to produce heat.  When the body begins to lose heat faster than the body can produce it, the body’s energy stores will become depleted and body temperature falls.  Normal body temperature is around 98.6⁰F (37⁰C).  Hypothermia is when body temperature drops below 95⁰F (35⁰C).  Hypothermia can cause serious health problems and even death if not treated quickly.

Risk factors for Hypothermia
Anyone can get hypothermia after being in cold air or cold water for too long. 

Risk factors include:
  • Exhaustion. Your tolerance for cold diminishes when you are fatigued.
  • Alcohol and drug use. Alcohol dilates blood vessels which increases blood flow peripherally to the limbs, causing a sensation of warmth, however in reality, heat is more rapidly lost from the surface of the skin and results in lower core body temperature.  The shivering response is diminished in people who’ve been drinking alcohol, thus removing one of the ways the body combats exposure to the cold.  The use of alcohol or recreational drugs impairs judgement about the need to get inside or dress appropriately.  If a person is intoxicated and passes out in cold weather, they are likely to develop hypothermia.
  • Older age.  The body's ability to regulate temperature and to sense cold may lessen with age. Some older adults may not be able to communicate when they are cold or to move to a warm location if they do feel cold.         
  • Very young age. Children lose heat faster than adults do.  Children may not think about the cold if they are having fun.  They may not have the judgment to dress properly in cold weather or to get out of the cold when they should.
  • Mental health conditions.  People with a mental illness or other conditions that interfere with judgment may not dress appropriately for the weather or understand the risk of cold weather.
  • Certain medical conditions.  Some health disorders affect your body’s ability to regulate body temperature.  Examples include an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), poor nutrition or anorexia nervosa, diabetes, stroke, severe arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, trauma, and spinal cord injuries.
  • Medications.  Some medications can change the body’s ability to regulate its temperature.  Examples include certain antidepressants, antipsychotics, narcotic pain medications and sedatives.

Signs of hypothermia
  • Shivering (but if hypothermia becomes severe, the person might actually stop shivering)
  • Clumsiness
  • Trouble speaking clearly
  • Confusion
  • Feeling tired
  • Breathing faster than usual
  • Urinating more than usual
  • Because hypothermia can happen slowly and cause confusion, someone might not realize that they have it.

What to do if someone has signs of hypothermia?
  • Get medical care right away.  Call Public Safety or Call 911.  Waiting to get treatment could cause serious health problems or even death.
  • Move the person to a warmer place as soon as possible
  • Remove any wet clothing
  • Cover the person with blankets
  • Offer warm beverages if the person is able to drink

  • Stay warm in cold weather, avoid alcohol and recreational drugs, and…
  • Remember the advice that follows with the acronym COLD – cover, overexertion, layers, dry:
  • Cover. Wear a hat and scarf or other protective covering to prevent body heat from escaping from your head, face and neck. Cover your hands with mittens instead of gloves.
  • Overexertion. Avoid activities that would cause you to sweat a lot. The combination of wet clothing and cold weather can cause you to lose body heat more quickly.
  • Layers. Wear loose-fitting, layered, lightweight clothing. Outer clothing made of tightly woven, water-repellent material is best for wind protection. Wool, silk or polypropylene inner layers hold body heat better than cotton does.
  • Dry. Stay as dry as possible. Get out of wet clothing as soon as possible. Keep your head, hands and feet dry to retain heat