Extreme Cold & Heat

Extreme Cold Weather PreparationWinter DrivingExtreme Heat

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Frostbite & Hypothermia

Frostbite is the actual freezing of the tissue or a body part. It often affects the ears, nose, fingers and toes.  Warning signs of frostbite include:

  • Pale or waxy white or grey skin
  • Numbness
  • Tingling or stinging sensation in the affected body part
  • Aching in the affected body part
  • Reduced blood flow

If frostbite is detected, seek medical care.  If there is frostbite but no sign of hypothermia and immediate medical care is not available, do the following:

  • Move to a warm dry area
  • Remove wet or tight fitting clothes
  • Avoid walking on frostbitten toes or feet
  • Gently place affected area in warm water – DO NOT use water any hotter than 105°F
  • DO NOT use a heating pad, heat lamp or stove, fireplace or radiator for warming
  • DO NOT rub affected area, this can cause more damage
  • After warming, the injured area should be wrapped in sterile gauze, keeping the affected fingers and toes separated
  • If normal sensations haven’t returned in 30 minutes, seek medical attention

How to Prevent Frostbite

  • Be aware of the warning signs of cold-related illness, such as uncontrollable shivering, sleepiness, confusion, changes in skin color, slurred speech and loss of consciousness.
  • Stay indoors and in a warm area.  If heat is not available, consider a visit to a shopping mall, public library, movie theatre, church, community building or shelter.
  • Increase your fluid intake – regardless of your activity level.  Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink fluids.  Ensure infants and children drink adequate amounts of liquids.
  • Avoid drinks containing caffeine and alcohol because they affect how your body reacts to the cold. Warm fluids such as broth or juice are good, as well as sports drinks.
  • Wear something on your head.  Fifty percent of all body heat is lost through the head, so wearing a hat will keep your whole body warmer.
  • Protect the ears and face.  Wear a scarf to protect your lungs from cold air – it will also protect your ears and face.
  • Boots should be waterproof.
  • Several layers of clothing are better than a single heavy layer.  The space between the layers works as insulation to help keep you warmer.   
  • Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking any prescription drugs. Some drugs affect the way your body reacts to the cold.
  • Minimize sitting or squatting in the cold for prolonged periods of time.  These positions can hinder circulation.
  • While outdoors, take frequent breaks in a warm place.
  • If you have to be outdoors, schedule outdoor activities during the warmest part of the day, usually 10 p.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Adjust to outdoor activity.  avoid muscle strain by stretching and doing a few exercises before going outside to work.  Extreme cold puts extra strain on the heart – no matter what your age or physical condition.
  • Use the buddy system.  Monitor the condition of your co-workers and have someone do the same for you.  The buddy system can be used to inspect for signs of frostbite.  Just before freezing, the skin, especially the face, becomes bright red.  Then small patches of white appear, as freezing actually occurs.
  • Prevent chapped skin by frequent application of protective lotions.
  • Carry extra clothes with you such as socks, gloves, hats and jackets so that you can change them if you get wet.

 Hypothermia is an abnormally low body temperature and is considered more dangerous than frostbiteIt is caused by the general cooling of the body and can quickly become life threatening.  If the body temperature drops below 86°F, death can occur.  Those most at risk for hypothermia are people who work outside, people in poor physical condition, the elderly, infants and people with health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.

Warning Signs of Hypothermia May Include:

  • Uncontrollable shivering. In severe cases of hypothermia, shivering stops
  • Numbness
  • Glassy stare
  • Apathy
  • Weakness
  • Impaired judgment
  • Drowsiness
  • Slow or slurred speech
  • Exhaustion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • In infants, the skin turns bright red and cold
  • Infants with a very low energy level

What to Do

  • Call 911 for immediate medical assistance
  • Gently move the victim to a warm place
  • Monitor the victim’s blood pressure and breathing
  • If needed, give rescue breathing and CPR
  • Remove wet clothing
  • Dry off the victim
  • Take the victim’s temperature
  • Warm the body core first, NOT the extremities.  Warming the extremities first can cause shock.  It can also drive cold blood toward the heart and lead to heart failure.
  • DO NOT warm the victim too fast. Rapid warming may cause heart arrhythmias

How to Prevent Hypothermia

  • Be aware of the warning signs of cold-related illness, such as uncontrollable shivering, sleepiness, confusion, changes in skin color, slurred speech and loss of consciousness.
  • Stay indoors and in a warm area.  If heat is not available, consider a visit to a shopping mall, public library, movie theater, church, community building or shelter.
  • Increase your fluid intake – regardless of your activity level.  Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink fluids.  Ensure infants and children drink adequate amounts of liquids.
  • Avoid drinks containing caffeine and alcohol because they affect how your body reacts to the cold.  Warm fluids such as broth or juice are good, as well as sports drinks.
  • Wear something on your head.  Fifty percent of all body heat is lost through the head so wearing a hat will keep your whole body warmer.
  • Protect the ears and face.  Wear a scarf to protect your lungs from cold air – it will also protect your ears and face.
  • Wear waterproof boots.
  • Several layers of clothing is better than a single heavy layer.  The space between the layers works as insulation to help keep you warmer.   
  • Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking prescription drugs. Some drugs can affect the way your body reacts to the cold.
  • Minimize sitting or squatting in the cold for prolonged periods of time.  These activities can hinder circulation.
  • While outdoors, take frequent breaks in a warm place.
  • If you have to be outdoors, schedule outdoor activities during the warmest part of the day, usually 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Adjust to outdoor activity.  Stretch and do a few exercises before going outside to work to avoid muscle strain. Extreme cold puts extra strain on the heart – no matter what your age or physical condition.
  • Use the buddy system.  Monitor the condition of your co-workers and have someone do the same for you.  The buddy system can be used to inspect for signs of frostbite.  Just before freezing, the skin, especially on the face, becomes bright red.  Then small patches of white appear, as freezing actually occurs.
  • Prevent chapped skin by frequent application of protective lotions.
  • Carry extra clothes with you such as socks, gloves, hats and jacket so you can change them if you get wet.

To view Winter Storm information (developed for kids), click here.

*Winter Weather: Stay Safe – Stay Healthy . . . Knowledge may save your life!
*Information provided courtesy of the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention
Understand Windchill
The Wind Chill index is the temperature your body feels when the air temperature is combined with the wind speed. It is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin caused by the effects of wind and cold. As the speed of the wind increases, it can carry heat away from your body much more quickly, causing skin temperature to drop. When there are high winds, serious weather-related health problems are more likely, even when temperatures are only cool. The Wind Chill Chart below shows the difference between actual air temperature and perceived temperature, and amount of time until frostbite occurs.
A Wind Chill Chart shows the difference between actual air temperature and perceived temperature, and the amount of time until frostbite occurs. [Click the globe]
Understand Severe Weather
Complex storm systems typically bring severe, often unexpected weather to Missouri.  Missouri is in a unique position geographically/meteorologically as warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico often merges with cold, dry, dense air from Canada.  Depending upon the time of year (season), the type of severe weather can range from ice or snow storms to flooding to tornadoes.  Do not be unprepared for severe weather.  Stay informed through the National Weather Service’s maps and information.  [Click the globe]
Severe and Hazardous Weather and Local Storm Reports
Watches – Warning – Advisories
Radar and Satellite Images
   Type in your City & State
See National Weather Maps    

 

Winter Driving Preparedness
“Often people prepare for the winter season by adding snow tires to their cars and putting sandbags in the trunks. These measures can improve driving but wearing seatbelt is the most important action drivers can take as they head out on the road,” says Missouri Labor Department Director Larry Rebman. “Buckling up should be part of their daily workplace safety routine, which starts before they even arrive at work.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that occupants are 45 percent more likely to survive a crash if they are wearing their safety belts correctly. Three out of four people who are ejected from a vehicle during a crash will die as a result. Seat belt usage saves an estimated 9,500 lives each year.

Winter Driving and Preparation Tips:
1. Winterize your car by checking the ignition, cooling system, fuel system, battery, lights, tires, heater, brakes, wipers and defroster.
2. Keep a winter storm kit in the car in case of an emergency, pack a flashlight, windshield scraper, extra clothing, snow boots, blankets, booster cables, sand, chains, and high calorie non-perishable snacks.
3. If a winter storm tests your driving ability, pull over and seek shelter immediately.
4. Allow plenty of time for travel in winter storms to prevent accidents by rushed driving.
5. Let others know of your travel plans and estimated time of arrival.
6. Drive defensively. If your car does not have anti-lock brakes, pump the brakes when trying to stop on snow or ice covered roads.
7. Do not use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.
8. Turn your lights on when driving to increase your visibility to other motorists. Keep your lights and windshields clear.
9. If ice/snow coats your car, try to remove as much of is as you can, don’t just clear a hole in the windshield.
10. Leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should leave at least three times more space than usual between you and cars in front of you.
11. Don’t assume your vehicle can handle all weather conditions. Four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles can still have trouble on winter roads.

Article Courtesy of: Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations

What is Extreme Heat?
Extreme heat conditions are generally defined as summertime temperatures that are substantially hotter and/or more humid than the average for your location for that time of year.  Humid or “muggy” conditions add to the level of discomfort that is due to high temperatures.  Extremely dry and hot conditions can provide the environmental conditions that place your body under extreme stress.  The body normally cools itself through the process of sweating.  Sweating requires the loss of body fluids.  The inability of the body to reduce body temperature, replace lost body fluids, and thus properly compensate for extreme heat gain results in a rapid rise of body temperature.  The rapid rise in body temperatures may result in damage to the brain or to other vital organs or a heat related illness; sometimes death.
Several factors affect the body’s ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather. When the humidity is high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly.  This prevents the body from releasing heat quickly. Other conditions related to the risk of heat related illness include age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use.Heat-related deaths are preventable!  You need to be aware of who is at greatest risk and what actions can be taken to prevent a heat-related illness or death.

ARE YOU AT RISK?  ARE YOU PRONE TO HEAT STRESS?
 The elderly (65 years and older)
 The very young (infants & children)
  People with mental illness
  People with chronic diseases
  However, even young and healthy individuals can succumb to heat if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather. Air-conditioning is the number one protective factor against heat-related illness and death. If a home is not air-conditioned, people can reduce their risk for heat-related illness by spending time in public facilities that are air-conditioned.

During Hot Weather
  • Heavy sweating removes salt and minerals from the body
  • Air-conditioning is the number one protective factor against heat-related illness and death. During conditions of extreme heat, spend time in locations with air-conditioning such as shopping malls, public libraries, or public health sponsored heat-relief shelters in your area.
  • Get informed. Listen to local news and weather channels or contact your local public health department during extreme heat conditions for health and safety updates
  • Drink cool, nonalcoholic beverages and increase your fluid intake, regardless of your activity level. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. However, if you are on a low-salt diet, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage or taking salt tablets.
  • Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing for yourself and children.  If going outdoors, shade childrens’ heads and faces with unbrellas or hats.  Wearing hats will help reduce your exposure to direct sunlight.
  • If you are not accustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment, start slowly and pick up the pace gradually.  Stop often to rest and consume fluids.  Rest in shaded areas if at all possible.
  • Do Not Leave Children in Cars (trucks, vans or suvs)
    Anyone left inside a car, truck, van or sport utility vehicle is at risk for serious heat related illnesses or even death.  The car’s interior temperatures may rise 20 degrees Fahrenheit within 10 minutes.. Children who are left unattended in parked cars (vehicles) are at the greatest risk for heat stroke, and possibly death. When traveling with children, remember to:

•Never leave infants, children or pets in a parked car (vehicle), even if the windows are cracked open.
•To remind yourself that a child is in the car (vehicle), keep a stuffed animal in the car seat. When the child is buckled in, take the stuffed animal out of the car seat and place it in the front with the driver (you).
•When leaving your car, check to be sure everyone is out of the car. Do not overlook any children who have fallen asleep in the car.

Heat Stroke
The CDC states, “Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature. The body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. Body temperature may rise to 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided. Recognizing Heat Exhaustion:

• Heavy sweating    • Dizziness                      • Rapid, weak pulse
• Paleness                • Headache                     • Rapid and shallow breathing
• Muscle Cramps     • Nausea or vomiting    • Skin may be cool & moist
• Tiredness               • Weakness                     • Fainting

Recognizing Heat Stroke:

  • An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F, orally)
  • Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness

For an extensive review of heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and dealing with extreme heat due to weather conditons, click the here.