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Extreme cold very dangerous

January 6, 2014
The Daily News

Temperatures are forecasted to hover around zero degrees with wind chills at 25 below or colder the next coupled of days.

This extreme cold can be very dangerous.

"Now is the time to prepare and to take the proper precautions," said Capt. Chris A. Kelenske, Deputy State Director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and commander of the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division.

"Citizens are encouraged to monitor local weather reports and follow the appropriate steps to stay safe during these extremely cold and potentially life-threating temperatures," Kelenske said in a statement.

To stay safe during cold weather:

- Stay indoors if possible. If you must go outside, wear protective gear, such as hats, mittens and gloves, in addition to a warm coat. Always protect your lungs with a scarf.

- Watch for signs of frostbite, which include loss of feeling or pale appearance of fingers, toes or face.

- Understand the hazards of wind chill. As wind speed increases, heat is carried away from a person's body more rapidly and could lead to severe hypothermia.

- Weather-proof doors and windows to trap heat inside your home.

- Check heating units. Poorly operating or damaged heating units can release carbon monoxide gas. Test carbon monoxide detectors for proper operation and battery life.

- Check on family, friends and neighbors who are at risk and may need additional assistance.

- Watch pets closely and keep them indoors when possible. Animals can suffer from hypothermia, frostbite and other cold weather injuries.

- Check and restock your emergency preparedness kit. If you don't have a kit, make one.

- Minimize travel. If travel is necessary, keep a full tank of gas and an emergency preparedness kit in your vehicle. Put warm clothing - such as gloves, blankets and hats - in your kit in case you become stranded.

Hypothermia, the loss of body temperature, is a serious concern this time of year.

It is dangerous and is the most common reason for outdoor deaths listed as "caused by exposure." Hypothermia is not literally freezing to death because serious and even fatal cases of hypothermia can occur at temperatures well above freezing.

As with all warm-blooded creatures, the human body requires a certain body temperature to function and can maintain that temperature - about 98.6 degrees - under "normal" conditions.

When body heat is lost more rapidly than the body is generating it, hypothermia occurs.

At 96 degrees - just two degrees colder - one begins to shiver and shortly loses the ability to perform complicated tasks.

At 91 degrees, the victim is uncoordinated, he stumbles, slurs his speech and can't think well.

At 86 degrees, the victim begins to act irrationally.

At 81 degrees, the victim is in a stupor; a bit colder, he is unconscious. At 78 degrees, death is near.

This is not solely a concern of Arctic explorers and ice fishermen.

Even at temperatures in the 40s and 50s, an unprotected, unprepared person caught in the wrong set of conditions could be in serious trouble in less than six hours.

Think of the people you notice wandering around town in hoodies or thin jackets. Now think what would happen if they became stranded on a lonely back road.

It stands to reason that an unprepared individual will have real problems in today's weather.

Preventing hypothermia is, of course, the best treatment.

Older people especially must beware of the cold even when they are inside their homes because they are more susceptible to hypothermia. They are advised to layer their garments even indoors, if necessary.

Other individuals venturing outdoors must prepare accordingly.

- Dress in layers. Layers of clothing trap more air and keep you warmer than one heavy garment.

- Carry enough clothing to keep you comfortable under the coldest conditions expected. Wind resistant outerwear should be part of the day's wardrobe.

- Remember adequate headgear. You can lose up to half of your body's heat through an unprotected head and neck.

- Stay dry. Getting wet greatly accelerates heat loss, and most fabrics lose insulating properties when wet. Wool is preferred because it retains a measure of its insulating ability when wet.

- Take along high-energy snack food such as candy or trail mix to help your body generate heat.

- Learn the signs of oncoming hypothermia - shivering, clumsiness, slurred speech.

Should someone show these symptoms, take immediate measure to get him warm - into shelter, away from wind and insulated from the cold ground. Get the victim's wet clothes off and put him into a sleeping bag or blanket near a source of heat.

Give a conscious victim warm liquids and food. Do not give alcohol as it impairs the body's heat regulatory mechanisms.

Additionally, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research reveals one out of three adults, age 65 plus, will annually experience a fall leading to orthopedic challenges, closed head injuries, or even death.

"The slip and fall occurrence rate dramatically increases when winter weather arrives with common sense and caution not being adhered to," said Michigan State University and Michigan Primary Care Consortium member, Linda J. Keilman, DNP, GNP-BC, a Gerontological Nurse Practitioner.

When walking outside and the sidewalks feel dangerous, you may consider walking on the covered grassy area adjacent to the sidewalk.

When exiting a vehicle be sensitive to the parking lot pavement in that it may be slippery or covered with black ice.

"It's much safer to move your car to a well-lit and marked area versus taking a chance on slippery pavement," Keilman said.

Residents who need assistance or guidance are encouraged to call 211.

 
 

 

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