Protect from Frostbite and Hypothermia
The National Weather Service has issued a wind chill warning for Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties from 8 p.m. this evening (January 4) through 7a.m. on Saturday, January 6. Dangerously cold wind chills are expected to range from -20 to -30 degrees Fahrenheit during this period. In addition, lake effect snow and blowing snow is expected, with a possible accumulation of 6 to 10 inches in the most persistent bands along the Chautauqua Ridge.
“In these wind chills, frostbite can occur on exposed skin in 10 minutes or less,” saidDirector of Health and Human Services Christine Schuyler. “We urge all residents to stay indoors during this time. If you must be outside, be sure to cover all exposed skin. It’s also very important to make sure that you are taking precautions to prevent fires and carbon monoxide poisoning when heating your home.”
Protect yourself when it is extremely cold
When outside, take extra precautions to reduce the risk of hypothermia and frostbite. Dress appropriately; ensure the outer layer of clothing is tightly woven to guard against loss of body heat. When outdoors, do not ignore warnings signs. Shivering is an important first sign that the body is losing heat and a signal to quickly return indoors. For those with cardiac problems or high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s orders about shoveling or performing any strenuous exercise outside. Healthy adults should always dress appropriately and work slowly when doing heavy outdoor chores.
Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities (such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose), as well as skin that feels unusually firm or waxy. A victim is often unaware of frostbite until someone else points it out because the frozen tissues are numb. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately! If you must wait for help, slowly rewarm affected areas.
If there is frostbite but no sign of hypothermia and immediate medical care is not available, proceed as follows:
- Get into a warm room as soon as possible.
- Unless absolutely necessary, do not walk on frostbitten feet or toes—this increases the damage.
- Immerse the affected area in warm—not hot—water (the temperature should be comfortable to the touch for unaffected parts of the body).
- Or, warm the affected area using body heat. For example, the heat of an armpit can be used to warm frostbitten fingers.
- Do not rub the frostbitten area with snow or massage it at all. This can cause more damage.
- Don’t use a heating pad, heat lamp, or the heat of a stove, fireplace, or radiator for warming.
- Affected areas are numb and can be easily burned.
Exposure to extremely cold temperatures can cause hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature, which can affect the brain and make the victim unable to think clearly or move well. This makes hypothermia particularly dangerous because a person may not know it is happening or be able to do anything about it.
Elderly people and infants are most at risk for hypothermia. In adults, warning signs for hypothermia include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech, and drowsiness. In infants, signs include skin that is bright red and cold, and having very low energy.
If you notice signs of hypothermia, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95°F (35°C), the situation is an emergency—get medical attention immediately. If medical care is not available, begin warming the person, as follows:
- Get the victim into a warm room or shelter.
- If the victim has on any wet clothing, remove it.
- Warm the center of the body first—chest, neck, head, and groin—using an electric blanket, if available. Or use skin-to-skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing, towels, or sheets.
- Warm beverages can help increase the body temperature, but do NOT give alcoholic beverages. Do not try to give beverages to an unconscious person.
- After body temperature has increased, keep the person dry and wrapped in a warm blanket, including the head and neck.
- Get medical attention as soon as possible.
A person with severe hypothermia may be unconscious and may not seem to have a pulse or to be breathing. In this case, handle the victim gently, and get emergency assistance immediately. Even if the victim appears dead, CPR should be provided. CPR should continue while the victim is being warmed, until the victim responds or medical aid becomes available. In some cases, hypothermia victims who appear to be dead can be successfully resuscitated.
Stay safe while heating your home
- Take precautions to avoid exposure to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.
- Carbon monoxide (CO) is a potentially deadly gas. It is colorless, odorless, tasteless and non-irritating. It is produced by burning fuels such as wood, oil, natural gas, kerosene, coal and gasoline.
- Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to the flu but do not include a fever. At lower levels of exposure, a person may experience a headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and shortness of breath. Exposure to very high levels of carbon monoxide can result in loss of consciousness and even death.
- For more information see:http://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/emergency/weather/carbon_monoxide/
- If you use a fireplace, wood stove, or portable kerosene heater to stay warm, be sure there is adequate ventilation to the outside. Without enough fresh air, carbon monoxide fumes can build up in your home. Never use a natural gas or propane stove/oven to heat your home. If you are using a kerosene heater, use 1-K grade kerosene only. Never substitute with fuel oil, diesel, gasoline or yellow (regular) kerosene.
- Open a window to provide ventilation when a portable kerosene heater is in use to reduce carbon monoxide fumes inside the home. If you plan to cook on a barbeque grill or camp stove, remember these also produce carbon monoxide and are for outdoor use only. Wood stoves, space heaters, electric heaters, kerosene heaters and pellet stoves can be dangerous unless proper safety precautions are followed. Learn more at http://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/indoors/heaters.
- Never try to thaw a pipe with an open flame or torch and be aware of the potential for electric shock in and around standing water. To keep water pipes from freezing in the home let faucets drip a little to avoid freezing, open cabinet doors to allow more heat to get to un-insulated pipes under a sink or appliance near an outer wall. Keep the heat on and set no lower than 55 degrees.
- Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Never run a generator in your home or indoor spaces, such as garages, basements, porches, crawlspaces or sheds, or in partly enclosed spaces such as carports or breezeways. Generators should only be operated outside, far away from (25 feet or more if possible) and downwind of buildings. Carbon monoxide in the generator’s fumes can build up and cause carbon monoxide poisoning, which can lead to death.
- Do not exceed the rated capacity of your generator. Overloading your generator can damage it and any appliances connected to it. Fire may result.
- Fuel spilled on a hot generator can cause an explosion. If your generator has a detachable fuel tank, remove it before refilling. If this is not possible, shut off the generator and let it cool before refilling.
- When adding fuel to a space heater, or wood to a wood stove or fireplace, wear non-flammable gloves.
- Never add fuel to a space heater when it is hot. The fuel can ignite, burning you and your home.
- Keep the heater away from objects that can burn, such as furniture, rugs or curtains.
- If you have a fire extinguisher, keep it nearby.
- Be careful with candles–never leave them burning if you leave the room.
- Keep children away from space heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves to avoid accidental burns.
Pay close attention to the safety of our pets. Here are some safety tips to follow from the New York State Emergency Management Office:
- Ingesting anti-freeze can be fatal for your dog or cat. It has a sweet taste and even a tiny amount can cause severe kidney damage and even death. If you spill some, soak it up immediately. (Clay kitty litter works well. Discard the litter once the anti-freeze has been absorbed.)
- Pets that live outdoors should be fed a bit more in the winter because they need the extra calories to stay warm. They also should have fresh water put out a couple of times a day, or consider a special bowl that prevents the water from freezing.
- If your pet goes outdoors, be aware of the temperature. Pets can get frostbite very easily on the ears, tail and paws.
- When walking your dog, check the paws to make sure that ice is not building up between the toes and that salt from the roads is not irritating the skin.
- If your dog is a swimmer, keep it on a leash around open water or unstable ice. Hypothermia can set in quickly and the dog may be unable to get out of the water.
- Before you start your car, you should honk the horn to make sure that a cat has not decided to nap in a warm spot under the hood of the vehicle.
Dr. Mary Ann Spanos, Director, Chautauqua County Office for the Aging, suggests, “Check on your family or neighbors and find out how they’re doing. Make sure they know what to do and what not to do to protect their health.”
If you find yourself or someone else in an emergency situation, call 911. If you are in need of information about services and supports in your area, call NY Connects at 1-800-342-9871.
More information and precautions about cold weather can be found at: