Frostbite and hypothermia are two winter conditions that can cause a lot of damage. Some simple advice can help prevent these emergencies, according to Centegra Health System experts.
Warmth, dryness and mobility are essential, and that means layering clothes to keep the body as dry as possible and able to move freely. Wear a hat. At least 50 percent of body heat escapes through your head. It’s important to keep the extremities dry and warm at all times, so wear appropriate socks or stockings with shoes and boots that have non-skid soles, and wear gloves or mittens, regardless of your age.
Hypothermia is a severely lowered body temperature, is a real danger during the winter and it doesn’t have to be below freezing to cause it. Typically those who suffer from it are the elderly, the very young, or those with chronic or circulatory diseases, such as diabetes or cardiac problems.
Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering; apathy; a glassy stare; losing consciousness; and numbness. Death is possible in extreme cases, so quick action is essential. If a person has suffered major trauma in the cold or has been in icy water, call 911. Try to remove any wet clothing at once and don’t try to warm the victim too fast by putting them under a hot shower because that can cause heart problems.
Whenever clothing gets wet, go inside, remove it immediately and get into something dry as soon as possible. A blanket or towels can be wrapped around a chilled body, and then a heated blanket right out of the dryer can be added on top of that. Do not put them directly against the skin. If the patient is conscious, keep them hydrated with room temperature or warm liquids, not hot, not ice cold and not alcoholic.
If an affected area of the body is discolored and is waxy and numb, it’s probably a case of frostbite. To treat frostbite at home, the first thing is to realize what NOT to do. Do not rub the affected area. Do not plunge a hand or foot into hot water. Water should just be comfortably warm, no more than 105 degrees. Keep the frostbitten area in the water until it begins to turn red and feeling returns, a sign that there is blood flow. Frostbite means the body area has actually been frozen. Toes and fingers are most susceptible, but it is possible to be frostbitten anywhere on the body.
Don’t break any blisters caused by frostbite, and see a doctor as soon as possible. If you have any doubts at all visit a Centegra Immediate Care Center. As always, in serious cases, call 911.
Warm and Dry
Keep in mind that sometimes people have been outside so long they don’t know they are being affected by the cold. Exposure, temperature and wind chill can have serious effects. Once a person demonstrates signs of a cold-related illness, the situation can become critical very quickly.
Just remember to keep warm and dry and exposure to extreme weather to a minimum. Those are good foundations for a safer winter.
Centegra is committed to meeting the healthcare needs of the residents of greater McHenry County and to making services available in multiple and convenient locations, including hospitals in McHenry and Woodstock, Immediate and Primary Care centers, Centegra Sage Cancer Center, Health Bridge Fitness Centers and more. As the region’s leading healthcare provider, Centegra Health System continues to bring the latest treatments and technology, along with the skills of nearly 4,000 medical professionals, to meet the needs of the growing McHenry County community.