Cold weather tips to ensure your safety
Published on February 09, 2021
As the predicted arrival of very cold weather moves across North Texas this week, MedStar will implement cold weather response protocol once the “real feel” temperature falls below 20 degrees. Under this protocol, response priorities are upgraded to patients in an outdoor area, unprotected from the cold.
Lower risk of frostbite, hypothermia
When exposed to low temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. To avoid cold weather health problems such as frostbite and hypothermia:
- Wear cold weather-appropriate clothing such as gloves or mittens, hats, scarves and snow boots. Dress in several layers of loose-fitting clothing, and cover your face and mouth if possible.
- Be aware of the wind chill factor. Wind can cause body heat loss.
- Stay dry, and if you become wet, remove wet clothing immediately.
- Limit your time outdoors.
- Do not ignore shivering. It’s an important first sign that the body is losing heat. Persistent shivering is a signal to return indoors.
Symptoms of hypothermia
Hypothermia symptoms for adults include:
- Shivering, which may stop as hypothermia progresses (shivering is actually a good sign that a person’s heat regulation systems are still active).
- Slow, shallow breathing.
- Confusion and memory loss.
- Drowsiness or exhaustion.
- Slurred or mumbled speech.
- Loss of coordination, fumbling hands, stumbling steps.
- A slow, weak pulse.
- In severe hypothermia, a person may be unconscious without obvious signs of breathing or a pulse.
Cold weather puts an extra strain on the heart. If you have heart disease or high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s advice about performing hard work in the cold. Otherwise, if you have to do heavy outdoor chores, dress warmly and work slowly. Remember, your body is already working hard just to stay warm, so don’t overdo it.
Avoid carbon monoxide
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that is poisonous to breathe. Operate all gasoline-powered devices, such as gas-powered heaters, outdoors and never bring them indoors. Be careful when using other alternate heating sources such as stoves or grills.
Check on elderly, chronically ill
The elderly or people with chronic illnesses may be at risk for hypothermia after prolonged exposure to even mildly low temperatures. Check on older friends or relatives often during cold spells to be sure they are acting normally.