How to avoid frostbite, hypothermia in extreme cold weather - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

How to avoid frostbite, hypothermia in extreme cold weather

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(Toledo News Now) -

With extremely cold temperatures ahead, residents are reminded to take extra precautions to avoid frostbite and hypothermia.

Frostbite occurs when the skin is damaged from exposure to severe temperatures and can cause serious complications, the worst being amputation. Injuries from frostbite are extremely common, yet easily preventable.

Frostbite mostly affects areas where the circulation is poor. Since cold weather will cause the body to take preventive measures by constricting the blood vessel, this opens the door to frostbite injuries.

Look for the 4 P's of frostbite:

  • Pink - Affected areas will be reddish in color, which is the first sign of frostbite.
  • Pain - Affected areas will become painful.
  • Patches - White, waxy-feeling patches show up, which is a sign of skin dying.
  • Prickliness - Areas will then feel numb.

Should frostbite set in:

  • Do not rub or massage affected areas or walk on frostbitten feet. It may cause more damage.
  • Slowly warm up the area. Use your own body heat to send warmth back to the area. Underarms are a good place.
  • If you see white or gray-colored patches or if the area is numb or waxy call 911 immediately.

Hypothermia can happen in a poorly heated house in the winter. It might take several hours or several days to develop. It can be a very dangerous condition for older adults.

As body temperature falls, all of the body's organs are affected. The risk is higher if a person is malnourished or has heart disease, liver problems and endocrine disorders.

Hypothermia can also occur by being outdoors too long or without proper clothing in extremely cold weather.

Getting very wet can also lead to hypothermia, whether by falling in water or getting covered with freezing rain.

Mild hypothermia symptoms:

  • Sluggishness
  • Mild confusion
  • Shivering
  • Fumbling hands

Moderate hypothermia symptoms:

  • Delirium
  • Blue color of the fingers and toes
  • Rigid muscles
  • Possible coma

Severe hypothermia symptoms:

  • Very cold skin
  • Pupils that don't change size in light or dark
  • No pulse felt
  • No breathing

If you notice any of these signs, take the person's temperature. If it is below 95°, the situation is an emergency—get medical attention immediately.

If medical care is not available, begin warming the person, as follows:

  • Get the victim into a warm room or shelter.
  • If the victim has on any wet clothing, remove it.
  • Warm the center of the body first—chest, neck, head, and groin—using an electric blanket, if available. Or use skin-to-skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing, towels, or sheets.
  • Warm beverages can help increase the body temperature, but do not give alcoholic beverages. Do not try to give beverages to an unconscious person.
  • After body temperature has increased, keep the person dry and wrapped in a warm blanket, including the head and neck.
  • Get medical attention as soon as possible.

A person with severe hypothermia may be unconscious and may not seem to have a pulse or to be breathing. In this case, handle the victim gently, and get emergency assistance immediately. Even if the victim appears dead, CPR should be provided. CPR should continue while the victim is being warmed, until the victim responds or medical aid becomes available. In some cases, hypothermia victims who appear to be dead can be successfully resuscitated.

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