Dealing With The Cold
Cold temperatures have descended upon our corner of Wyoming, and while they haven't yet exceeded the records established in 1962 and 1963, it's pretty darn cold out there. Wyomingites are used to cold winters, but with the extreme cold comes health concerns we all must take into consideration, especially if we have to get out and about in it.
Exposure to the elements on these cold days for even ten to thirty minutes can mean the development of frostbite on vulnerable areas of the body. The threat of frostbite is not to be taken lightly. Initially, the skin will present as yellow or white but will still feel soft to the touch. Skin will also tingle or burn, and eventually turn very pale, waxy and hard to the touch. The skin may go completely numb dependent on the severity of the frostbite.
At the first sign of frostbite, protect the exposed skin and get out of the cold as soon as possible. Warm the skin gradually using body heat and do not rub the exposed area. Once warm, do not re-expose the affected area to the cold and protect it while it heals.
Another concern in frigid temperatures is hypothermia. Hypothermia occurs when your core body temperature drops too much to function normally. It can be severe and even lead to death as the body loses heat and organs begin to shut down. Some signs and symptoms of hypothermia include numbness, shivering, confusion, and weakness. Lips, ears, fingers, toes or other extremities will turn blue due to hypothermia. Signs of confusion as well should be monitored including mumbling, stumbling and fumbling.
Severe cases of hypothermia require immediate medical attention, and those who think they or a loved one has severe hypothermia should call 9-1-1.
While waiting for help to arrive, do the following:
- Find shelter.
- Keep muscles moving.
- Remove wet clothing and gradually warm the person.
- Use warm blankets/dry clothing or reheat using skin-to-skin contact with another person.
- Drink warm, sweet liquids.
- Don't fight shivering: this is one of the ways your body increases its core temperature.
- If the person is unconscious, lay them down. Avoid shaking them or handling them roughly as they may have an arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).
Taking Care Indoors
While frostbite and hypothermia are concerns for going out into the cold primarily, monitoring the indoors is important as well. Identifying and monitoring drafts in your home and covering them to maintain heat is important. Checking on family and friends particularly the elderly or those who cannot go out can be crucial for those days where we experience frigid temperatures. Those who are most at risk for exposure include the very young, the elderly, people with chronic illness or who are cared for by others due to longterm illness or diagnosis.
Making sure to get plenty of water is as well very important as extreme cold in Wyoming where our arid climate in the winter can prove to dehydrate quickly. Monitoring home thermostats and dressing warmly even while indoors will help stave off the cold. If you have any questions about your health or the health of a family member, please contact your healthcare provider.
Have ideas to help get through the frigid temps? Let us know in the comments on our Facebook Page!