ADPH offers tips to prevent hypothermia and frostbite
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Everyone is getting mentally and physically prepared for the bitterly cold temperatures heading our way and the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) is reminding people how quickly cold weather-related health problems can set in.
ADPH said it’s important to take extra precautions as temperatures are expected to dip into the teens over the next few days.
Doctors are warning hypothermia and frostbite can happen in a matter of minutes.
“It’s very important to understand that cold weather can affect you very severely, said Dr. Wes Stubblefield with the ADPH.
Stubblefield said we’re rarely exposed to prolonged cold temperatures in the South and, since many don’t have the proper outerwear to brave the arctic blast, he said it’s best to limit your time outdoors so you don’t risk hypothermia.
“Typically, our bodies maintain about 98, 99 degrees Fahrenheit as a normal temperature,” Stubblefield explained. Hypothermia really is just the lack of the body’s ability to regulate the internal body temperature due to prolonged cold exposure.”
ADPH said 12 people died of hypothermia in Alabama last year, and young children and the elderly are the most vulnerable.
“If it’s very, very cold outside, it can happen in minutes especially if you’re wet, but even indoors in very cold weather it can happen within 10 to 15 minutes. So, it’s important to check on loved ones who don’t have adequate heat sources,” Dr. Stubblefield said.
And beware of frostbite.
“Make sure your extremities are protected, your fingers and toes are wrapped up so that those don’t lose blood flow and then potentially can have severe tissue damage sometimes even requiring removal of fingers and toes,” Dr. Stubblefield.
He added that prevention is the key to avoiding both hypothermia and frostbite.
He said to be sure to bundle up dressing in several layers if you absolutely need to be outside in the coming days and seek medical attention if you’re experiencing hypothermia or frostbite symptoms.
The CDC lists the following signs and symptoms of hypothermia:
· Exhaustion or feeling very tired
· Fumbling hands
· Memory loss
· Slurred speech
· Bright red, cold skin
· Very low energy
The CDC says if you notice redness or pain in any skin area, get out of the cold or protect any exposed skin—frostbite may be beginning.
Any of the following signs may point to frostbite:
· A white or grayish-yellow skin area
· Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
A person who has frostbite may not know they have it until someone else points it out because the frozen parts of their body are numb.
The CDC has hypothermia and frostbite prevention information available at cdc.gov.
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