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Not only is it unpleasant to be out in the cold weather, but in some cases it can be life threatening as well. Each year up to 1,000 people die from hypothermia which happens when a person’s body loses heat faster than it can replace it. Symptoms may include intense shivering, fatigue, disorientation and erratic behavior.
Another serious cold weather health concern is frostbite. Frostbite occurs when a person’s skin or body tissues freeze. Often this affects the extremities such as fingers or toes, as they become stiff, bluish or white in color, and/or have a prickly pain that progresses to numbness. Sadly, body parts severely affected by frostbite may need to be amputated.
To help protect yourself from potentially dangerous cold weather conditions, you must stay abreast of the weather forecast and plan accordingly. At minus 5 degrees Fahrenheit, in a 20 mph wind, skin can freeze in as little as 15 minutes. Refer to this link to the National Weather Service’s Wind Chill Information and Chart.
If you must be out in frigid weather, be sure to wear layered clothing, boots and gloves (mittens are even better) that are well insulated. Equally as important, wear a well-insulated hat with face protection, as up to 50% of body heat can be lost by the head. Never wear clothing that is wet or moist as that can be a catalyst for frostbite. Avoid alcohol, coffee or cigarettes which add stress to the body. Never place bare skin against a metal surface, as the outer layer of skin can freeze and bond to it. If you or another has any symptoms of frostbite or hypothermia, get out of the cold immediately, warm up gradually, and obtain medical assistance as quickly as possible. Never rub or pour hot liquids onto areas affected by frostbite, as this may further damage the skin and tissues. Instead, place it against warm skin and let it warm up slowly. Never underestimate the dangers of cold weather.