The following cold weather health and safety tips are provided by the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department.
This first "cold snap" of the winter reminds us that precautions must be taken to keep us safe from the cold. Frostbite is the most common injury resulting from exposure to cold. The ears, nose, cheeks, fingers, hands and toes are the most vulnerable. Signs of frostbite include a numb, tingling or burning sensation which can be painful. Just before freezing, the skin turns a bright red. The exposed area should be rewarmed gradually with warm (not hot) water.
Hypothermia is a more serious condition. Hypothermia is caused by the lowering of the body's core temperature. Normal body temperature is 98.6° F. People are hypothermic when their body's internal temperature drops to 95° or below. Persons suffering from hypothermia may have a variety of symptoms, ranging from poor coordination, slurred speech, weak pulse, and a blueness or puffiness of the skin. Children, the elderly, and those with heart disease are at special risk for hypothermia. According to the American Heart Association, heart failure causes most deaths in hypothermia.
First aid tips for someone suffering from hypothermia include:
To help prevent against accidental injuries due to cold weather, wear layers of clothing. Outer garments should be thin nylon or gortex to protect against moisture and wind. Wearing a hat is impo11ant to prevent heat loss from the head. Protect the face and mouth with a mask or scarf. For hands, mittens provide better protection than fingered gloves.
Strains and sprains are common when people engage in activities such as scooping snow. It is important for people to recognize their limitations, do the job at a pace appropriate for themselves and use proper lifting techniques including using legs rather than back to do the work. If you are concerned about an injury that you have sustained, you should contact your physician immediately.
Cold weather puts all extra strain on the heart. If you have heart disease or high blood pressure, follow your doctor's advice about shoveling snow or performing other hard work in the cold.
Pet owners should also lake precautions to protect their pets from extreme cold. One of the most imp0l1anl things to provide for your outside pet is proper shelter away from wind. If possible, bring an outside pet indoors during the most extreme weather.
During cold weather, drivers must take the additional precaution of not "warming up" a vehicle in an enclosed space such as a garage. Carbon monoxide from exhaust can readily enter a house and cause serious and immediate health concerns. It acts quickly and can be deadly.
On November 1, 2001, the National Weather Service implemented a new Wind Chill Temperature (WCT) index for the 2001/2002 winter season, designed to more accurately calculate how cold air feels on human skin. The former index used by the United States and Canada was based on 1945 research of Antarctic explorers Siple and Passel. They measured the cooling rate of water in a container hanging from a tall pole outside. A container of water will freeze faster than flesh. As a result, the previous wind chill index underestimated the time to freezing and overestimated the chilling effect of the wind. The new index is based on heat loss from exposed skin and was tested on human subjects.
For the first time, the new Wind Chill Chart includes a frostbite indicator, showing the points where temperature, wind speed and exposure time will produce frostbite on humans. The chart above includes three shaded areas of frostbite danger. Each shaded area shows how long (30, 10 and 5 minutes) a person can be exposed before frostbite develops.
For example, a temperature of 0°F and a wind speed of 15 mph will produce a wind chill temperature of -19°F. Under these conditions, exposed skin can freeze in 30 minutes.
What is Wind Chill Temperature?
It is the temperature it "feels like" outside and is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin caused by the effects of wind and cold. As the wind increases, the body is cooled at a faster rate causing the skin temperature to drop. Wind Chill does not impact inanimate objects like car radiators and exposed water pipes, because these objects cannot cool below the actual air temperature.
What does this mean to me?
The NWS will inform you when Wind Chill conditions reach critical thresholds. A Wind Chill Warning is issued when wind chill temperatures are life threatening. A Wind Chill Advisory is issued when wind chill temperatures are potentially hazardous.
What is Frostbite?
Frostbite is an injury to the body caused by freezing body tissue. The most susceptible parts of the body are the extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, or the tip of the nose Symptoms include a loss of feeling in the extremity and a white or pale appearance. Medical attention is needed immediately for frostbite. The area should be SLOWLY re-warmed.
What is Hypothermia?
Hypothermia is abnormally low body temperature (below 95 degrees Fahrenheit). Warning signs include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion. Medical attention is needed immediately. If it is not available, begin warming the body SLOWLY.
Tips on how to dress during cold weather: