The US National Weather Service (NWS) has warned that winter storms are “deceptive killers” because exposure to extreme cold temperatures can lead to hypothermia and frostbite.
Seth Podolsky, emergency room doctor for the Cleveland Clinic, said : “Prevention really is key. The more time and the more skin exposed, the worse it is.”
Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature falls below 35 degrees Celsius. Although a human can survive, there will be irrevocable damage to the liver, kidneys and pancreas.
Warning signs of hypothermia include:
• Uncontrollable shivering
• Memory loss
• Slurred speech
• Apparent exhaustion
Frostbite occurs when extreme cold damages the skin and underlying tissues on the part of the body farthest from the central warm core. Those areas will lose sensation, turn white or black and die.
Body parts affected by frostbite are:
• Ear lobes
• Tip of the nose
Recommended ways to protect against frostbite include:
- Get into a warm room
- Put the affected area in warm — not hot! — water, or warm using body heat (such as putting a frostbitten hand in your armpit)
- Do not rub the area! This may damage it further
- Don’t use heating pads or other artificial heat sources to warm frostbitten areas — since the tissues are numb, you might accidentally burn yourself without knowing it
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that having an “emergency cold kit” full of supplies such as extra batteries (batteries drain faster in the cold), extra blankets and/or sleeping bags, a fire extinguisher, carbon monoxide detector would help residents in affected areas remain safe.