Tips to stay safe during winter

February 9, 2012 by  
Filed under Wind Energy Tips

As snow lightly blanketed Franklin County Wednesday afternoon, residents were reminded we are still in the midst of winter. Just last week, Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter on Groundhog Day, despite the recent 50-degree weather the area has seen. Keep your snow boots handy and heed these tips to keep yourself safe and healthy during winter.

Bundle up

Bundle up when you head out into the cold because body heat is lost rapidly in frigid temperatures. Infants and older adults are most susceptible to heat loss and cold weather-related illnesses each winter.

“Infants lose their body heat more easily than adults because they cannot control their body temperature as well,” said Gordon Braun, a physician’s assistant at Antrim Family and Walk-In Care. “Older adults are susceptible to create less body heat because their metabolism has slowed and they may have reduced their daily physical activity.”

Dressing in layers; wearing gloves, hats, scarves, wind-resistant coats and water-resistant footwear are ways to keep warm when out in the cold. Tight sleeves also keep the cold air from your body.

If a person is not properly prepared to deal with the cold the body can suffer negative impacts.

“The brain, heart, kidneys and lungs become affected by the cold,” said Dr. David Marx, an emergency medicine physician at Chambersburg Hospital. “Common side effects of the cold one can experience includes trouble breathing, decreased brain function, disturbances to the heart’s rhythm or even poor pumping of blood by the heart.”

Cold weather safety

Shoveling snow is dangerous if not done at an even pace.

“Snow shoveling and other physically demanding activities can put people at an increased risk for having a heart attack,” said Braun, who advises patients that when shoveling take frequent breaks and go inside to warm up and give the body and heart a break from the physical exertion. He advises anyone who feels the task is too overwhelming to ask a friend or neighbor for help.

Hypothermia and frostbite can set it after being exposed to the extreme cold for a long duration.

“Hypothermia is when you have an abnormally low body temperature that is caused when your body is losing heat faster than it can produce heat,” said Marx.

Typical symptoms of hypothermia in adults include shivering, exhaustion, drowsiness, confusion, memory loss and slurred speech.

Infants’ skin will turn bright red and they will become sluggish and have low energy levels.

“If you fear that someone may be suffering from hypothermia, take their temperature. If the temperature is below 95 degrees then seek medical attention immediately,” Marx added.

Frostbite injures frozen body parts.

“A body part that has frostbite will lose feeling and color,” said Marx.
Typical signs of frostbite include a white or grayish-yellow skin area, and the skin will feel unusually firm, waxy and numb, he added.

Carbon monoxide

Producing heat in homes during the winter can expose people to carbon monoxide poisoning. The silent and deadly killer can be generated in the form of an odorless, colorless gas that can be produced by malfunctioning heating systems, cars, stoves, burning wood or charcoal and gas ranges.

Symptoms, of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion can often be mistaken for less serious medical issues, noted Marx. If believed to have been exposed to carbon monoxide seek medical treatment immediately.

Battery-operated carbon monoxide testers can be placed in the home to alert a family if the odorless, colorless gas is detected.

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