Exposure to cold can cause frostbite or hypothermia and become life-threatening. Infants and elderly people are most susceptible. What constitutes extreme cold varies in different parts of the country. In the south, near freezing temperatures are considered extreme cold. Freezing temperatures can cause severe damage to citrus fruit crops and other vegetation. Pipes may freeze and burst in homes that are poorly insulated or without heat. Further north, extreme cold means temperatures well below zero.
Wind Chill - is not the actual temperature, but rather how the combination of wind and cold temperatures feel on exposed skin. It is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin, and as the wind speed increases, heat is carried away from the body at an accelerated rate, driving down the body temperature. Wind chill will also impact animals, but not impact inanimate objects such as cars or exposed water pipes, because they cannot cool below the actual air temperature.
Frostbite - is damage to body tissue caused by extreme cold. A wind chill of -20°F will cause frostbite in just 30 minutes. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately! If you must wait for help, slowly re-warm affected areas. However, if the person is also showing signs of hypothermia, warm the body core before the extremities.
Hypothermia - is a condition brought on when extremities are excessively cold, and the body temperature drops to less than 95°F it can kill. For those who survive, there are likely to be lasting kidney, liver and pancreas problems. Warning signs include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. Take the person’s temperature. If below 95°F, seek medical care immediately!
If Medical Care is Not Available - warm the person slowly, starting with the body core. Warming the arms and legs first drives cold blood toward the heart and can lead to heart failure! If necessary, use your body heat to help. Get the person into dry clothing and wrap in a warm blanket covering the head and neck. Do not give the person alcohol, drugs, coffee or any hot beverage or food. Warm broth is the first food to offer.
Remember to Avoid Overexertion!
Avoid activities such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a car, or walking in deep snow. The strain from the cold and the hard labor could cause a heart attack, and sweating could lead to a chill and hypothermia. Take Red Cross/American Heart Association CPR and AED training so you can respond quickly to an emergency.
Did You Know?
Injuries Related to Cold:
50% happen to people over 60 years old . More than 75% happen to males . About 20% occur in the home.
Injuries Related to Ice and Snow:
About 70% result from vehicle accidents . About 25% occur to those caught in a storm . Most happen to males over 40 years old.
DAKOTA COUNTY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT