Being safe in icy conditionsHealth department passes on safety tips for cold weather
With the sudden cold snap that has moved into the area, Washington County Public Health wants to remind people to be careful of two of the main preventable maladies associated with extreme cold temperatures — frostbite and hypothermia.
Public health nurse Lynn Fisher said today that because the weather is getting so cold — dropping below zero at nighttime — people need to take extra care not to fall victim to the cold.
“We still have some winter to go yet,” she said.
She said frostbite is one of the first stages of cold exposure. She said the first warning sign is the skin turning red. If left untreated, the skin eventually turns white. The extremity may also go numb. She recommends people with these symptoms go into a warm place immediately. She said the fingers, toes, face, nose and ears are especially susceptible to frostbite.
“Frostbite is one thing we can prevent just by wearing hats and scarves and mittens,” Fisher said. “It is surprising how many people you see out without hats and mittens.”
She said hypothermia is another malady that public health worries about in cold temperatures. She said that this is when the body loses core temperature. Symptoms include slurred speech, confusion and not being able to think clearly. She said it is important to get someone suffering from hypothermia medical attention, because it can be life threatening.
Fisher said the two risk groups particularly susceptible to hypothermia are infants and the elderly, because their bodies don’t produce heat as fast.
“If you think someone has hypothermia, the first thing to do is get them into a warm place,” Fisher said. “Wrap them in blankets and call 911. You should try to get their center core warmed up first — their chest, neck and head.”
She said that a person being wet contributes to the onset of hypothermia, so it is important to get someone suffering from hypothermia out of wet clothing. She said water conducts cold many times more than air.
Fisher said that limiting time outdoors and wearing lots of clothing are things people can do to be safe in cold weather. She also said people should prepare their cars in case they are stranded somewhere.
“It is important to have a sleeping bag or a blanket,” she said. “If you end up sliding off the roadway and have to wait for a tow, you could get pretty cold.”