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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Avoid Hypothermia and Frostbite During Colder Weather

            MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930
mebrady@co.pg.md.us     @PGFDPIO

With colder temperatures and dangerously low wind chills being a part of our forecast, The Prince George's County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department wants our residents to avoid serious health problems that can occur due to prolonged exposure to cold weather. The two most common conditions are hypothermia and frostbite.  Remember, by staying healthy will help the Fire/EMS Department by you not having to call 911 for an ambulance.

The Fire/EMS Department would like to share recommendations by our Health Department for you to stay healthy during cold weather.

All residents must take precautionary actions as a primary defense against injuries and illness resulting from extreme cold weather conditions. When exposed to cold weather, our bodies lose heat faster than it can produce it, resulting in bodily injury, illness, and even death.

The Fire/EMS Department advises all residents to check on your elderly relatives and neighbors to ensure they have adequate heat and protection from the cold.  Limit the amount of time your pet spends outside.  Indoor pets when outside in the freezing cold, can also contract hypothermia very quickly.

Hypothermia is one of the serious health problems that can be caused by exposure during cold weather.  If a person’s body temperature drops below 95 degrees, immediately seek medical attention.

In mild cases the symptoms include:

    Uncontrollable shivering
    Pale and cold skin

Other more serious signs include:

    Confusion or sleepiness
    Slurred speech
    Shallow breathing
    Weak pulse
    Stiffness in the arms or legs
    Or, poor control over body movements

In the case of serious symptoms, contact the victim’s doctor or call 911.

In either case, until help arrives or a doctor sees the person, move the person to a warm room, warm the body with dry layers of blankets or clothing, and give warm beverages.

Frostbite refers to actual freezing and subsequent destruction of body tissue which is likely to occur any time skin temperature gets much below 32F.  The areas most likely to freeze are toes, fingers, ears, cheeks and the tip of the nose.

Individual at risk for frostbite include those with impaired circulation, the elderly, the very young and anyone who remains outside for prolonged periods.  The danger increases if the individual becomes wet.

Symptoms of frostbite include:

    Gradual numbness;
    Hardness and paleness of the affected area during exposure,
    Pain and tingling or burning in affected area following warming; and
    Possible change of skin color to purple

NEVER MASSAGE OR RUB FROSTBITTEN AREAS AS THIS MAY CAUSE FURTHER DAMAGE TO THE SKIN.

Follow these tips to weather the winter in a healthy way:

    Cover your head.  You lose as much as 50 percent of your body heat through your head.
    Wear several layers of lightweight, loose fitting clothing.  The air between the layers acts as insulation to keep you warmer.
    Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect lungs from direct, extremely cold air.  Cover your ears and lower part of your face as well.
    Wear mittens rather than fingered gloves.  The close contact of fingers helps to keep your hands warm.
    Wear warm leg coverings and heavy socks or two pairs of lightweight socks.
    Wear waterproof boots or sturdy shoes to keep your feet warm and dry.

Don't forget you pets need to stay warm as well.  Leaving pets outdoors in these cold conditions could lead to death.  Allow pets to remain indoors and stay warm along with you!!!

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