How to spot and treat frostbite, other winter health risks

Thursday, December 28, 2017 05:41PM
Know the signs when out in cold. Ali Gorman reports during Action News at 5 p.m. on December 28, 2017.


The Delaware and Lehigh valleys are in the middle of a frigid forecast.

With cold weather comes increased risk of several kinds of health concerns. You should of course check on the elderly and bring pets inside, but do you know what to do to prevent your own cold-related health risks?

Here's a quick guide on how to make sure the cold never bothers you, anyway.

Frostbite
What is it? Skin tissue has frozen up.
What does it look like? The affected area, usually extremities like fingers and toes, goes numb and turns grayish-yellow or white.
I think I have it! What should I do? Seek medical help. Immerse frostbitten area in warm water. Don't rub it!
How do I prevent it? Bundle up and know the risks. The colder it is and the higher the wind speeds, the quicker you can get it.


Where can I learn more? Page 12 of this Center for Disease Control guide

Hypothermia
What is it? The body is losing heat faster than it can replace it.
What does it look like? The person may be shivering or confused and in severe cases can lose consciousness. If their temperature is below 95 degrees, it's an emergency.
I think someone has it! How can I help? Move the person to a dry, warm place and give them a warm, sugary beverage without caffeine. If it's severe, call 911.
How do I prevent it? As with frostbite, the best defense is dressing properly and avoiding prolonged exposure.
Where can I learn more? Page 10 of the same guide

Trench foot
What is it? It's like a less severe version of frostbite, and it's only in the feet.
What does it feel like? You'll have tingling or burning, and sometimes blisters.
I think I have it! What should I do? Soak your feet in warm water. Drink a warm, sugary beverage.
How do I prevent it? Keep your feet dry, especially in the cold, and change socks as often as possible.
Where can I learn more? From the Occupational Health & Safety Administration

Ice-related injuries
What risk is there on the ice? When you slip and fall, it can cause fractures, sprains or broken bones, especially in ankles and wrists.
What should I do if I fall? If you think you hurt something, seek help sooner rather than later because your injury could get worse with time.
How do I prevent it? This handout gives you a step-by-step, but the gist of it is to walk like a penguin and if you do fall, don't tense up.
Snow shoveling risks
What risk is there shoveling snow? Blood vessels tighten up in the cold. That and any extra exertion could increase the risk of a heart attack.
How do I prevent it? When shoveling snow, take it easy and lay off the booze, which could increase your risk, an American Heart Association spokesperson told ABC News.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning
What is CO? It's a colorless, odorless gas that is emitted from fuel-burning appliances, cars and combustion equipment.
How can it poison you? The air can become dangerous for people and animals when CO is not allowed to vent, like when cars are left running in garages.
What does CO poisoning look like? Symptoms include headache, dizziness and confusion.
I think I have it! What should I do? CO poisoning can turn deadly quickly. Turn off the appliance and leave the affected area immediately. Then seek medical attention.
How do I prevent it? Never run a CO-emitting device in an enclosed space without proper ventilation. Know the symptoms so you can recognize CO poisoning in yourself when you see it.
Where can I learn more? From this CDC fact page and the Department of Housing and Urban Development

Stay safe and spread the word!
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