Frigid temps: Shawnee doctor offers tips to prevent hypothermia, frostbite

Elisabeth Slay
The Shawnee News-Star
Winter Weather

With extreme winter weather comes concern of health issues from the low temperatures and Pottawatomie County area residents are advised to stay inside as much as possible.

According to Dr. A.C. Husen, SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital - Shawnee Emergency Room Medical Director, frostbite and hypothermia are cold-related emergencies that can quickly become life or limb threatening.

"Preventing cold-related emergencies includes staying indoors, but if you have to be outside, being prepared is imperative," Husen said.

According to the CDC, in cold temperatures the human body can lose heat fast, so it's best to stay inside as much as possible or dress warmly if outdoors.

The CDC suggests items including hats, scarves, gloves, layers of loose-fitting clothing and water resistant boots.

Husen said warm clothing is the best tool to protect people from developing frostbite or hypothermia.

The CDC said those most vulnerable to these cold-related emergencies include older people without proper food and heat, people outside for extended periods of time, such as the homeless, people who drink alcohol or use illicit drugs excessively, as well as infants in cold rooms.

In addition, many are usually unaware if they have frostbite.

Husen said frostbite is an injury to the skin and underlying tissue because of the cold.

"The symptoms include cold skin with sharp pain, numbness, skin discoloration (that may be) red, white, blue, or gray, joint and muscle stiffness and blistering after rewarming," Husen said. "Frostbite commonly occurs in fingers, toes, nose, ears, cheeks and chins."

Husen said hypothermia is another cold-related medical emergency in which a person's body loses heat faster than it can generate it.

"It occurs when the body temperature falls below 95 degrees," Husen said. "It can be caused by prolonged exposure to cold weather."

The doctor explained hypothermia keeps the heart, nervous system and other vital organs from working properly.

"If left untreated, it can lead to complete heart and respiratory failure and death," Husen said.

If anyone experiences cold-related medical emergencies, they are advised to seek assistance from medical professionals as soon as possible.

For more information visit http www.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/index.html.