Letter from the Chief-Dangers of Hypothermia
Everyone knows about winter dangers such as broken bones from falls on ice or breathing problems caused by cold air. But, not everyone knows that cold weather can also lower the temperature inside your body. This drop in body temperature is called hypothermia and it can be deadly if not treated quickly. Hypothermia can happen anywhere-not just outside and not just in northern states. In fact, some older people can have a mild form of hypothermia if the temperature in their home is too cool.
What Are The Signs Of Hypothermia?
When you think about being cold, you probably think of shivering. That is one way the body stays warm when it gets cold. But, shivering alone does not mean you have hypothermia. Other signs of hypothermia include:
- Slowed, slurred speech, or shallow breathing
- Weak pulse
- Change in behavior or in the way a person looks
- A lot of shivering or no shivering; stiffness in the arms or legs
- Poor control over body movements or slow reactions
- Confusion or sleepiness
A normal body temperature is 98.6 °F. A few degrees lower, for example, 95 °F, can be dangerous. It may cause an irregular heartbeat leading to heart problems and death.
If you see a family member exhibiting any of the above signs, call 911 and help will begin to respond immediately. While you are waiting for help to arrive, keep the person warm and dry. Try and move him or her to a warmer place. Wrap the person in blankets, towels, coats-whatever is handy.
Some illnesses may make it harder for your body to stay warm. These include problems with your body's hormone system such as low thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism), health problems that keep blood from flowing normally (like diabetes), and some skin problems where your body loses more heat than normal. Ask your doctor how the medicines you are taking affect body heat. Some medicines used by older people can increase the risk of accidental hypothermia. These include drugs used to treat anxiety, depression, or nausea. Some over-the-counter cold remedies can also cause problems.
Staying Warm Inside
Being in a cold building can also cause hypothermia. Even if you keep your temperature between 60 °F and 65 °F, your home or apartment may not be warm enough to keep you safe. For some people, this temperature can contribute to hypothermia. This is a special problem if you live alone because there is no one else to feel the chilliness of the house or notice if you are having symptoms of hypothermia. Set your thermostat for at least 68 °F to 70 °F. If a power outage leaves you without heat, try to stay with a relative or friend. Wear several layers of loose clothing when it's cold. The layers will trap warm air between them. Don't wear tight clothing because it can keep your blood from flowing freely. This can lead to loss of body heat.
The good news is that Spring is just a few weeks away!
Chief of the Halesite Fire Department