Thursday, January 15, 2009

Deep freeze can lead to serious issues

The bitter cold that is sweeping across the North and Mideast sections of the country can be very dangerous. Frostbite and hypothermia are real dangers that can be life threatening.

Frostbite can occur in 15 minutes or less. It causes a loss of feeling in your extremities (fingers, toes, ears, nose) and can lead to the loss of limbs. The affected area appears white or pale, sometimes even gray. When the temperature is at or below zero, your blood vessels that are closest to the skin constrict causing the blood flow to dramatically slow in these areas and the tissue freezes.

Hypothermia develops when your body temperature drops below 95 degrees. There are three stages to hypothermia. In the first stage your hands become numb, you experience mild to strong shivering and your breathing becomes quick and shallow. In the second stage, shivering becomes stronger, your muscles no longer cooperate with what you want them to do and your skin turns pale. And in the third and final stage, your body shuts down. Shivering usually stops, thinking is impaired and your muscle coordination is gone. You have noticeable trouble walking or performing simple tasks (such as picking up and holding a cup). Death will occur if medical help is not obtained.

If you or someone you love are experiencing any of the above signs, seek medical attention immediately. In these extreme temperatures that our country is experiencing numerous issues can develop quickly.

Helpful links:

National Weather Service's Warnings

The CDC's article Extreme Cold: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety

Government agencies that can help


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