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How to protect yourself in frigid temperatures this winter season
Winter can bring arctic blasts, snowstorms, ice and sleet. And more often these days, areas of the country unaccustomed to that type of severe weather are experiencing just that.
During those weather events, many may lose power, and therefore heat, which can lead to medical emergencies such as frostbite and hypothermia. 
Older people are especially vulnerable when temperatures drop because they have less efficient circulation. They may have medical conditions (such as thyroid problems or diabetes) and take medications (such as beta-blockers) that can raise their risk of health problems, including injuries, in the cold, says Matthew Levy, associate professor of emergency medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Bone density decreases, which could put someone at risk for injuries from falls, and blood pressure medicine may not allow your heart rate to increase as needed,” when shoveling snow.
Medical Emergencies Caused by Cold
Hypothermia: This occurs when one’s body temperature, normally around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, sinks below 95 degrees — a medical emergency that can cause cardiac arrest and death, as the cold causes arteries and blood vessels to narrow, which limits the amount of oxygen flowing to the heart. The temperature doesn’t need to be below freezing to cause this condition, but just cold enough to lower body heat by a few degrees. Warning signs include shivering, confusion, shallow breathing and drowsiness.
How to treat it: Call an ambulance immediately. While you wait, keep the person warm and dry, using blankets or anything you have on hand. If the person is able to drink, give him or her a warm beverage without alcohol.
Frostbite: As blood flow is focused away from fingers and toes to keep up core body temperature, the extremities suffer — fingers, toes, nose and ears. The skin starts to tingle (an early stage called frostnip), then feel numb, and may look grayish or white. In extreme cases, it can turn black, as skin dies. Because frostbite begins with numbness, Factora says, it’s a good idea to check your fingers and toes when you are able to do so safely. It can become excruciatingly painful.
How to treat it: Warm water immersion is a standard treatment. If the skin is waxy and pale, however, “you want to avoid partially rewarming and having it refreeze,” Levy says. If possible, first get the person where he or she can stay warm.
How to protect yourself in frigid temperatures
Pile on the layers. If you have no heat in your home, gather all blankets, coats, sleeping bags — anything that will allow you to maintain your body temperature — and bundle up. If your car is in a garage and you can’t open the garage door, don’t run the vehicle’s heater to get warm or charge devices.
Be careful with candles. If possible, use a flashlight as a light source instead of candles, which are a
Keep the weather outside. Do anything you can to maintain the temperature indoors if you don’t have a heat source (or even if you do). The National Institute on Aging suggests that you keep blinds and curtains closed and roll towels and place them under doors to keep out drafts. Close the doors to unused rooms and avoid opening doors to the outside unless absolutely necessary.​
Take care with electric heaters and generators.
When using a portable electric heater, follow safety tips from the Consumer Products Safety Commission to avoid fire. They include advice about making sure the device is not damaged in any way (is the cord hot when you plug it in?) and not leaving it unattended. Make sure the heater is at least 3 feet away from curtains or bedding.​Never use a gas-powered generator indoors; you can be poisoned by the colorless, odorless by-product: carbon monoxide. The American Red Cross has tips on preventing carbon monoxide poisoning.​
Never use gas-powered generator indoors; you can be poisoned by the colorless, odorless by- product: carbon monoxide. The American Red Cross has tips on preventing carbon monoxide poisoning.
Avoid alcohol. Alcohol can make you feel warmer, but it actually lowers the body’s temperature because it causes blood to flow from your core to your extremities. Too much alcohol will impair your judgment — not something you want in a weather emergency.
Don’t drink melted snow. If you don’t have water, try to avoid drinking melted snow, which can be full of impurities. “I would advise against drinking it unless there’s truly no other option,” Levy says. (It’s less risky if you boil it before drinking.)
Dress right. Multiple thin layers can insulate you better than one thick layer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests wearing an inner layer of wool, silk or polypropylene, which will hold more body heat than cotton. If you start to get too warm, take off a layer before you begin to sweat. (Sweat lowers your body temperature.) Mittens are warmer than gloves.
Be careful while clearing snow. Extreme exertion, such as shoveling, can lead to a heart attack “People who aren’t normally used to doing such strenuous exercise should not shovel unless they literally have a clean bill of health from their doctor,” Levy says. Note that every winter brings distressing snowblower injuries. You can’t be too careful when using one.
Find a shelter. If you’re unable to get warm at home or you’re far from home, go to a shelter or warming center if there is one nearby and you can get there safely.
Keep yout pets safe. Animals should be inside, but remember that they can get cold — and hypothermia and frostbite — too. Keep them dry and warm using blankets and hot-water bottles if they seem dangerously cold. If you walk your dog outdoors, try to avoid areas that have been salted; the Humane Society of the United States warns that canines are at risk for salt poisoning because they often lick their paws after a walk
Check on others. When temperatures are extremely cold, check on more vulnerable family members and neighbors. Even if they're indoors, they may be at risk.
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ALL CONTENT, INCLUDING ALL IMAGES AND PHOTOGRAPHY EXCEPT AS SPECIFICALLY NOTED, IS PROPERTY OF NORTHEAST STOKES VOLUNTEER FIRE & RESCUE
CONTENT PROUDLY MAINTAINED BY: NORTHEAST STOKES VOLUNTEER FIRE & RESCUE
How to protect yourself in frigid temperatures this winter season
Winter can bring arctic blasts, snowstorms, ice and sleet. And more often these days, areas of the country unaccustomed to that type of severe weather are experiencing just that.
During those weather events, many may lose power, and therefore heat, which can lead to medical emergencies such as frostbite and hypothermia. 
Older people are especially vulnerable when temperatures drop because they have less efficient circulation. They may have medical conditions (such as thyroid problems or diabetes) and take medications (such as beta-blockers) that can raise their risk of health problems, including injuries, in the cold, says Matthew Levy, associate professor of emergency medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Bone density decreases, which could put someone at risk for injuries from falls, and blood pressure medicine may not allow your heart rate to increase as needed,” when shoveling snow.
Medical Emergencies Caused by Cold
Hypothermia: This occurs when one’s body temperature, normally around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, sinks below 95 degrees — a medical emergency that can cause cardiac arrest and death, as the cold causes arteries and blood vessels to narrow, which limits the amount of oxygen flowing to the heart. The temperature doesn’t need to be below freezing to cause this condition, but just cold enough to lower body heat by a few degrees. Warning signs include shivering, confusion, shallow breathing and drowsiness.
How to treat it: Call an ambulance immediately. While you wait, keep the person warm and dry, using blankets or anything you have on hand. If the person is able to drink, give him or her a warm beverage without alcohol.
Frostbite: As blood flow is focused away from fingers and toes to keep up core body temperature, the extremities suffer — fingers, toes, nose and ears. The skin starts to tingle (an early stage called frostnip), then feel numb, and may look grayish or white. In extreme cases, it can turn black, as skin dies. Because frostbite begins with numbness, Factora says, it’s a good idea to check your fingers and toes when you are able to do so safely. It can become excruciatingly painful.
How to treat it: Warm water immersion is a standard treatment. If the skin is waxy and pale, however, “you want to avoid partially rewarming and having it refreeze,” Levy says. If possible, first get the person where he or she can stay warm.
How to protect yourself in frigid temperatures
Pile on the layers. If you have no heat in your home, gather all blankets, coats, sleeping bags — anything that will allow you to maintain your body temperature — and bundle up. If your car is in a garage and you can’t open the garage door, don’t run the vehicle’s heater to get warm or charge devices.
Be careful with candles. If possible, use a flashlight as a light source instead of candles, which are a
Keep the weather outside. Do anything you can to maintain the temperature indoors if you don’t have a heat source (or even if you do). The National Institute on Aging suggests that you keep blinds and curtains closed and roll towels and place them under doors to keep out drafts. Close the doors to unused rooms and avoid opening doors to the outside unless absolutely necessary.​
Take care with electric heaters and generators.
When using a portable electric heater, follow safety tips from the Consumer Products Safety Commission to avoid fire. They include advice about making sure the device is not damaged in any way (is the cord hot when you plug it in?) and not leaving it unattended. Make sure the heater is at least 3 feet away from curtains or bedding.​Never use a gas-powered generator indoors; you can be poisoned by the colorless, odorless by-product: carbon monoxide. The American Red Cross has tips on preventing carbon monoxide poisoning.​
Never use gas-powered generator indoors; you can be poisoned by the colorless, odorless by-product: carbon monoxide. The American Red Cross has tips on preventing carbon monoxide poisoning.
Avoid alcohol. Alcohol can make you feel warmer, but it actually lowers the body’s temperature because it causes blood to flow from your core to your extremities. Too much alcohol will impair your judgment — not something you want in a weather emergency.
Don’t drink melted snow. If you don’t have water, try to avoid drinking melted snow, which can be full of impurities. “I would advise against drinking it unless there’s truly no other option,” Levy says. (It’s less risky if you boil it before drinking.)
Dress right. Multiple thin layers can insulate you better than one thick layer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests wearing an inner layer of wool, silk or polypropylene, which will hold more body heat than cotton. If you start to get too warm, take off a layer before you begin to sweat. (Sweat lowers your body temperature.) Mittens are warmer than gloves.
Be careful while clearing snow. Extreme exertion, such as shoveling, can lead to a heart attack “People who aren’t normally used to doing such strenuous exercise should not shovel unless they literally have a clean bill of health from their doctor,” Levy says. Note that every winter brings distressing snowblower injuries. You can’t be too careful when using one.
Find a shelter. If you’re unable to get warm at home or you’re far from home, go to a shelter or warming center if there is one nearby and you can get there safely.
Keep yout pets safe. Animals should be inside, but remember that they can get cold — and hypothermia and frostbite — too. Keep them dry and warm using blankets and hot-water bottles if they seem dangerously cold. If you walk your dog outdoors, try to avoid areas that have been salted; the Humane Society of the United States warns that canines are at risk for salt poisoning because they often lick their paws after a walk
Check on others. When temperatures are extremely cold, check on more vulnerable family members and neighbors. Even if they're indoors, they may be at risk.
Station 36