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Health tips for cold weather safety- State health officials offer recommendations for surviving Indiana winters

Written by Chronicle Staff. Posted in Uncategorized

Published on February 22, 2017 with No Comments

Winter weather will still be in the forecast for awhile and temperatures are dropping rapidly, so staying warm and dry can be a challenge. The Indiana State Department of Health recommends Hoosiers take steps to plan for the cold.

Serious health problems can result from prolonged exposure to the cold. The most common cold-related problems are hypothermia and frostbite.

Hypothermia occurs when people are exposed to cold temperatures. A person’s body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced and prolonged exposure to the cold will ultimately use up a body’s stored energy. This results in hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature.

Body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well. This makes hypothermia particularly dangerous because a person may be unaware it is happening and will not be able to take protective measures.

Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and discoloration of the skin in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes.

Frostbite can permanently damage the body, and severe cases can lead to amputation. The risk of frostbite is increased in people with reduced blood circulation and among people who are not dressed properly for extremely cold temperatures.

If you detect symptoms of frostbite, such as numbness, waxy-feeling skin or a white or gray colored area of skin, do not rub the area. Instead, get into a warm room as soon as possible. Gently warm the affected area with comfortably warm – not hot – water, or place the affected area next to a warm part of your body, for example your armpit.

Never use a heating pad or other source of heat to warm frostbitten body parts as these areas are numb and can be easily burned. Seek care from a health care professional immediately.

Exposure to the cold can cause life-threatening health conditions. Avoid serious conditions such as frostbite and hypothermia by keeping warm. Wear the following items when outdoors:

A hat or hood as most heat is lost through the head

A scarf or knit mask to cover face and mouth

Sleeves that are snug at the wrist

Mittens – they are warmer than gloves

Water-resistant coat and boots

Several layers of loose-fitting clothing

Ensure the outer layer of your clothing is tightly woven, preferably wind resistant, to reduce body-heat loss caused by wind. Wool, silk or polypropylene inner layers of clothing will hold more body heat than cotton.

Most important, stay dry as wet clothing chills the body rapidly. Excess perspiration will increase heat loss, so remove extra layers of clothing whenever you feel too warm. Do not ignore shivering as it is an important first sign that the body is losing heat. Persistent shivering is a signal to return indoors.

Follow these tips for staying warm and safe while at home:

Use fireplace, wood stoves or other combustion heaters only if they are properly vented to the outside

Never use a charcoal or gas grill indoors – the fumes are deadly

Never leave lit candles unattended

Keep as much heat as possible inside your home

Check the temperature in your home often during severely cold weather

Eat well-balanced meals to help you stay warmer

Misuse of portable heating equipment can lead to fire or dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. Take precautions to ensure you are heating your home safely and that you have a working carbon monoxide detector.

For more information, visit .

Be prepared, pack an emergency car kit

Jumper cables to restart engine

Cat litter or sand for tire traction

Shovel to scrape snow away from tires

Ice scraper to clear windshield

Warm clothes, gloves, a hat, sturdy boots, warm jacket and even a change of clothes

Blankets to keep warm inside the vehicle

Flashlights and extra batteries for increased visibility

First aid kit; also pack necessary medications in case you are stuck on the road

Food pack items containing protein such as nuts and energy bars, also canned fruit and a portable can opener are good additions

Water – bring enough for each person in your car and any pets

AM/FM radio to listen to traffic reports and emergency messages

 

Also consider…

Keep your gas tank near full

Try not to travel alone, especially in unfamiliar places

Let someone know your timetable and primary and alternate routes

Bring a fully charged cell phone (don’t forget your phone charger)

Flares or reflective triangle

Baby formula and diapers if you have a small child

If you find yourself stranded, be safe and stay in your car. Put on your flashers, call for help and wait until help arrives

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