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Cut health risks in cold, blustery weather


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As the kids play and adults dig out from Wednesday’s snowstorm, officials at Columbus Regional Hospital are warning Bartholomew County residents about potential weather-related health dangers.

“Exposure to cold temperatures can cause serious or life-threatening health problems,” said CRH Nursing Supervisor Twanette Lawson. “Infants and the elderly are particularly at risk. Stay indoors as much as possible, and avoid travel unless it is an emergency.”

Dress right

Lawson said if you or your children must go out, make sure everyone is dressed to stay warm and dry. She advises that anyone going outside wear:

  • A scarf or knit mask to cover face and mouth
  • Sleeves that are snug at the wrist
  • Mittens, which are considered warmer than gloves
  • Water-resistant coat and boots
  • Several layers of loose-fitting clothing

Don’t strain your heart

One of the major concerns for health officials involves those who over-exert themselves shoveling snow.

“Cold weather puts an extra strain on the heart, as it is working hard to keep your body warm,” Lawson said. “Adding physical activities like shoveling snow increases the risk of heart attack.

“People with any sort of heart conditions ... should avoid shoveling snow or other outdoor physical activities.”

Cut risk of hypothermia

Lawson added those who complete outdoor chores should dress warmly, work slowly and pay attention to the warning signs of winter weather health concerns.

She said prolonged exposure to cold eventually will use up the body’s stored energy, which could lead to hypothermia.

Lawson said some of the warning signs of hypothermia for adults include displaying signs of mental and physical fatigue, as well as excessive shivering.

Lawson said if you are concerned that you or a family member might have hypothermia, seek medical attention immediately.

Prevent frostbite

Frostbite also is something residents should be aware of. When exposed to cold temperatures for prolonged periods of time, Lawson said parts of the body can begin to freeze. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers and toes.

Lawson said if you detect symptoms of frostbite, seek medical care.

Warnings signs of hypothermia

Adults

Shivering, exhaustion

Confusion, fumbling hands

Memory loss, slurred speech

Drowsiness

Infants

Bright red, cold skin

Very low energy

Warning signs of frostbite

You could have frostbite if you have:

Redness or pain in any skin area

A white or grayish-yellow skin area

Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy

Numbness

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