Blog 12/3/2018

Weekly Clinical Service Dose: Health Tips for Cold Weather

Winter temperatures are dropping rapidly, so staying warm and dry can be a challenge.  Extremely cold weather is expected for the days ahead and 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.

Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing.  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.

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.

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.

Exposure to the cold can cause life-threatening health conditions. Avoid serious conditions such as frostbite and hypothermia by keeping warm.

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