Winter Weather Preparedness: Frostbite and Hypothermia - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Winter Weather Preparedness: Frostbite and Hypothermia

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The National Weather Service issues Wind Chill Warnings when the combined effects of wind and temperature feel like 25 below zero in southern New England.

Frostbite is a condition in which the body tissue actually freezes. The most susceptible areas for frostbite include the fingers, toes, nose and ear lobes.

Hypothermia develops when the body loses heat faster than it can produce it. Warning signs start with shivering and then proceed to include memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion.  At this point immediate attention is necessary, which includes warming the person properly.

Temperatures do not have to be below freezing for hypothermia to develop. It can develop in elderly people in a cool room with few, if any, warning signs.

In a hypothermic person, cold blood is concentrated in the extremities. If these extremities are warmed too quickly, the cold blood will be released into the central core of the body, possibly lowering the central core temperature to a fatal level.

Use the following steps to raise the core temperature of a hypothermic person:

  • Get the person into dry clothing if their clothes are wet. 
  • Put on additional clothing to warm the head and trunk such as a hat and vest.
  • Wrap the person in a warm blanket and be sure that their head and neck are covered.  Do not cover their extremities.
  • Give the person warm liquids to drink, but no alcohol, drugs or coffee.
  • Seek immediate medical attention.
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