(Oakland County Press Release, Jan. 23, 2013)
Oakland County Health Division advises residents to take precautions against extreme cold during winter months. As temperatures drop, heat can leave your body faster than normal resulting in hypothermia or frostbite.
“While anyone can be affected by extreme cold, infants and elderly are particularly at risk, as are people with diabetes because of impaired circulation,” said Kathy Forzley, Health Division manager/health officer. “Proper precautions need to be taken to avoid serious health problems caused by cold weather.”
Dress properly to reduce the possibility of hypothermia and frostbite. The outer layer of your clothing should be tightly woven and wind resistant to help reduce the loss of body heat. When outside, adults and children should wear:
- ~A hat and knit mask and scarf to cover the face and mouth
- ~Sleeves that are snug at the wrist and mittens (they are warmer than gloves)
- ~Several layers of loose-fitting clothing and water-resistant coat and boots
- ~Infants less than one year old should be dressed in warm clothes – even when indoors
- ~Stay dry – remove extra layers of clothing when too warm; wet clothing chills the body rapidly
The earliest sign of hypothermia is shivering; an indication the body has begun to lose heat. Check exposed skin for frostbite. Signs include skin that is hard, pale and numb to the touch. If hypothermia or frostbite is suspected, seek medical care immediately.
Aside from dressing properly during extreme cold, residents should also maintain a warm home. Set the thermostat at 65 degrees Fahrenheit or higher; 70 degrees if an infant or individual age 75 or older resides in the home. If the home is drafty or too large to heat throughout, practice safe heating by doing the following:
- ~Only use fireplaces and wood stoves that are properly vented to the outside
- ~Use proper fuel type for non-electric heating devices
- ~Do not place a space heater within 3 feet of fire hazards such as drapes, furniture or bedding
- ~Never cover a space heater or place it on furniture or near water
- ~Do not run the space heater cords under carpets or rugs, but make sure it is not a tripping hazard
- ~Install a battery-operated carbon monoxide (CO) detector in your home and do not use generators, grills or camp stoves indoors
Other tips for keeping safe during extreme cold include:
- ~Avoid exertion while shoveling or snow blowing if you have cardiac problems or high blood pressure.
- ~Avoid getting gasoline or alcohol on skin while de-icing and fueling cars, snow blowers, etc. Contact with the skin can greatly increase heat loss from the body.
Don’t forget your pets during cold weather. Outdoor pets should be kept indoors when temperatures drop below 32 degrees. When your pet comes indoors, wipe legs and stomachs clean to eliminate the possibility of them licking salt or antifreeze off their paws or other areas.