Archive for Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cold temperatures, wind cause health concern

January 7, 2010

Extreme cold temperatures and high winds increase the risk of hypothermia.

The Johnson County Health Department provides the following tips of avoiding and identifying hypothermia.

Serious health problems can result from prolonged exposure to the cold. The most common cold-related problems are hypothermia and frostbite. When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up your body’s stored energy and result in hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature.

Warnings signs of hypothermia are shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness. Seek medical attention quickly.

Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color 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.

At the first signs of redness or pain in any skin area, get out of the cold or protect any exposed skin—frostbite may be beginning. A victim is often unaware of frostbite until someone else points it out because the frozen tissues are numb. If you detect symptoms of frostbite, seek medical care.

If there is frostbite but no sign of hypothermia and immediate medical care is not available, proceed as follows:

Get into a warm room as soon as possible.

Unless absolutely necessary, do not walk on frostbitten feet or toes—this increases the damage.

Immerse the affected area in warm—not hot—water (the temperature should be comfortable to the touch for unaffected parts of the body).

Or, warm the affected area using body heat. For example, the heat of an armpit can be used to warm frostbitten fingers.

Do not rub the frostbitten area with snow or massage it at all. This can cause more damage.

Don’t use a heating pad, heat lamp, or the heat of a stove, fireplace, or radiator for warming. Affected areas are numb and can be easily burned.

For more information go to the Center for Disease Control’s website: http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/

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