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With cold temperatures and dangerously cold wind chills throughout the state, Public Health and Emergency Support Services are issuing a special public health advisory to remind everyone of the dangers of severe cold, and safety tips to follow if you’re headed outside. The American Heart Association also has given some tips to help avoid hypothermia.
“With low temperatures and even moderate wind, common outdoor activities can quickly become life threatening, even for those appropriately dressed for the outdoors,” said Deb Lindemann, Health Officer. “Exposed areas such as the nose and ears can freeze within 30 seconds with a wind chill factor of negative 30 degrees.”
The combination of bitterly cold temperatures and wind lead rapidly to life-threatening hypothermia, especially if a person is wet or damp. Hypothermia is a condition of abnormally low body temperature, and it occurs when your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Shivering is the first sign of hypothermia. Low body temperature affects the brain, and as hypothermia progresses, symptoms include lack of coordination, slowed reactions, slurred speech, mental confusion and drowsiness. If you are outside and notice a person with any of these symptoms, immediately get them out of the elements and call for help.
People who participate in outdoor winter activities such as ice fishing, snowmobiling, or skiing should always be aware of the weather conditions and be properly dressed to protect themselves from the elements. Winter sports enthusiasts who don’t take certain precautions can suffer accidental hypothermia. It occurs when your body can’t produce enough energy to keep the internal body temperature warm enough.
Other cold weather safety tips include:
• If you are going to be outside, let someone know where you are headed and when you expect to return.
• People who are outdoors in cold weather should avoid sudden exertion, like lifting a heavy shovel full of snow. Even walking through heavy, wet snow or snow drifts can strain a person’s heart.
• It can kill you. Heart failure causes most deaths in hypothermia.
• Make a car survival kit including blankets, sleeping bags, extra clothing and high-energy foods.
• Be sure your vehicle’s fuel tank is at least half-full and the battery is charged.
• Do not touch metal surfaces with uncovered hands – flesh will freeze immediately to the surface.
• Do not drink alcohol before participating in an outdoor activity – it can reduce your brain’s ability to recognize your body’s warning when it becomes too cold. Alcohol gives an initial feeling of warmth, because blood vessels in the skin expand. Heat is then drawn away from the body’s vital organs.
• To keep warm, wear layers of clothing. This traps air between layers, forming a protective insulation. Also, wear a hat, ski mask or head scarf. Heat can be lost through your head. Keep your hands and feet warm.
• Learn CPR. Effective bystander CPR, provided immediately after sudden cardiac arrest, can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival. Hands-only CPR makes it easier than ever to save a life. If an adult suddenly collapses, call 9-1-1 and begin pushing hard and fast in the middle of the victim’s chest until help arrives.