Archive for Wednesday, January 12, 2011

County announces warming centers, cold-weather safety tips

January 12, 2011

Special to The Dispatch

The Johnson County Health Department encourages residents to understand the health risks of this cold weather and stay warm and sheltered in the below freezing temperatures.

Johnson County government buildings and libraries are open during normal business hours for people who may need to warm up. (However, not that county offices and libraries will be closed Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.)

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, the body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up the 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 if you have these symptoms.

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, as 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.

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