Cold weather tips to keep you safe
In South Carolina, we don’t have extremely cold weather very often, but there are still dangers involved when the thermostat has only just dipped below freezing or even when the temps are in the forties. It’s important to plan ahead, be prepared and have the information you need on how to brave the cold. Emergency medicine physician Steve Shelton, MD, offered cold weather tips to keep you safe.
How to stay warm during extreme cold weather
Extremely low temperatures can cause hypothermia, which is a dangerous drop in body temperature, typically below 95 degrees. The elderly, very young, people with chronic conditions such as diabetes or thyroid disease, those who work outside and the homeless are at high risk for hypothermia. To avoid this life-threatening condition, Dr. Shelton said to follow these tips:
- Don’t go outside unless you absolutely have to.
- Stay well nourished – eat frequently, stay hydrated and avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages.
- Wear loose, multilayered clothing, including a hat.
- If you get wet, change into dry clothing immediately.
- If you must spend an extended period of time outside, bring a buddy with you. This way you can monitor each other and make sure you are both safe.
“The body is not very good at retaining heat, so proper outerwear is important,” said Dr. Shelton. “You want to remain warm but not sweat.”
If you’re traveling during cold weather, Dr. Shelton said it’s best to keep blankets in your car in case there’s a traffic issue.
What are some signs of hypothermia?
Dr. Shelton said to look for these symptoms of hypothermia:
- Intense shivering. If this shivering stops, you are in a true emergency and should seek immediate professional medical care.
- More exhausted than usual.
- Slurred speech.
- Memory loss.
- “Fumbly fingers,” as Dr. Shelton calls it. Things you can normally do with your fingers and hands tend to become much harder.
If you think that you or someone you know is experiencing hypothermia, find somewhere warm indoors, warm the core (abdomen, neck and chest) first and seek medical attention.
Cold weather tips for heating your home safely
When trying to warm your home, it’s important to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. “Carbon monoxide is a tasteless, odorless and colorless gas that you can be exposed to. It replaces the oxygen in your blood and can create a very life-threatening situation,” Dr. Shelton said.
Some symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include nausea, drowsiness, confusion and unconsciousness. If you or someone you know experiences any of the symptoms mentioned above, seek medical attention immediately.
Here are some tips to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Never use charcoal fire or a charcoal grill as a source of heat indoors.
- If you use any type of gas heater indoors, make sure there is plenty of ventilation.
- Make sure any generators or engines have been serviced regularly.
- Turn off any heaters when you are not able to monitor them, specifically when you go to sleep.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommend installing a battery-operated or battery back-up carbon monoxide detector in your home. Check or replace the battery each spring and fall. If the detector sounds an alarm, leave your house immediately and call 911.
Remember to stay safe this winter.
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