With potentially record-breaking cold in the forecast for Wednesday and Thursday, it is always a good idea to be prepared and know how to stay safe during frigid weather.
The Ohio Department of Health offers these safety tips to help keep you and your family safe this winter season.
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 your body’s stored energy. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature.
Body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well. This makes hypothermia particularly dangerous because a person may not know it is happening and won’t be able to do anything about it.
Hypothermia is most likely at very cold temperatures, but can occur even at cool temperatures (above 40 degrees) if a person becomes chilled from rain, sweat or submersion in cold water. Hypothermia can also occur inside a building. The thermostat should be set no lower than 65-70 degrees if the occupants are 75 years or older.
Signs of Hypothermia include:
• Confusion or memory loss
• Slowed, slurred speech or shallow breathing
• Weak pulse or low blood pressure
• A change in behavior during cold weather or a change in the way a person normally looks
• A lot of shivering or no shivering; stiffness in the arms or legs
• Poor control over body movements or slow reactions
• Chilly rooms or other signs that a person has been in a cold place
Infants younger than 1 year of age are at risk. They should never sleep in a cold room and should wear warm clothing or a snug-fitting sleeper to prevent loss of body heat. Do not place blankets in the crib. Instead use a sleep sack to keep infants warm. Pre-warm vehicles before taking infants out into extreme cold weather.
Children lose heat faster than adults do. They have a larger head-to-body ratio than adults do, making them more prone to heat loss through the head. Ensure children playing outside cover their heads (with hats or hoods) and come inside periodically to warm up.
If you don’t eat well, you might have less fat under your skin. Fat can protect your body. It keeps heat in your body. Make sure you are eating enough food to keep up your weight.
If you think someone might have hypothermia it is advised to first take their temperature. If the temperature does not rise above 96 degrees call for help. This person must be seen by a physician.
While waiting for help to arrive, keep the person warm and dry. Wrap the person in extra blankets, coats and/or towels. Use whatever you may have available. Your own body can serve as warmth. Lie close, but be gentle. Rubbing the skin of an older adult can make problems worse because their skin is thinner and could easily be torn or injured by vigorous rubbing. Set the thermostat for at least 68 to 70 degrees.
Frostbite is one of the most common cold-related injuries. Frostbite is an injury to the body caused by freezing of skin tissue. 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, those who drink alcoholic beverages, the elderly and 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. The following signs may indicate frostbite: a white or grayish-yellow skin area; skin that feels firm or waxy; or numbness. A victim is often unaware of frostbite until someone else points it out because the frozen tissues are numb.
If symptoms are detected, seek medical care. If immediate care is not available: get into a warm room, immerse the affected area in warm water or warm the area using body. Do nut rub the frostbitten area or use a heating pad, fireplace, or radiator for warming. Affected areas are numb and can easily be burned.
As the weather turns cold, Ohioans look for ways to save on heating costs. The use of alternative heating sources such as portable heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves increases. Fire deaths and carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning are increased risks from using alternate heating sources. Home heating equipment is among the top causes of fires and CO poisoning.
The Ohio Departments of Health and Aging suggest the following safety tips to prevent injury from CO poisoning and fire:
• Install a battery-operated CO detector and smoke alarms throughout the home, and check or replace the batteries twice a year, when you change the time on the clocks every spring and fall. If the CO detector or smoke alarm sounds, leave the building immediately and call 911.
• Have a fire safety escape plan. Keep escape routes clear and free of clutter and trip hazards. Keep a robe, slippers, eye glasses and keys close to the bed.
• Have your heating system, water heater, and any other gas, oil or coal-burning appliance serviced by a qualified technician every year.
• Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning, or are feeling dizzy, light-headed or nauseous.
• Do not heat your house by using a gas oven.
• Do not run or warm a vehicle inside a garage that is attached to the home, even if the garage door is open.