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In bitterly cold weather, it is important to stay warm. Hypothermia begins when your body temperature drops just two or three degrees and can occur after just 30 minutes of exposure. Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, slurred speech, then loss of coordination and confusion. This is a condition worse than frostbite and should be treated as soon as it becomes noticeable.
Frostnip, the least severe form of frostbite, affects areas that are exposed to the cold such as cheeks, nose, ears, fingers, and toes, leaving them red and numb or tingly. Frostnip can be treated at home by immersing the chilled body parts in warm (not hot) water or use washcloths soaked in warm water, for 20 to 30 minutes until all sensation returns. Call your doctor if sensation does not return or there are signs of frostbite. One sign of frostbite is when flesh becomes red and very painful as it thaws.
- If you must be outdoors, limit your exposure to 30 minutes each time.
- Be careful when warming body areas numb from the cold—the numbness may prevent the person from realizing he or she is being burned.
- Do not smoke or drink alcoholic beverages as these can interfere with blood circulation and actually slow down the warming process.
- DO drink warm beverages—ones that contain sugar may be especially helpful.
- Wear several light layers of clothing; when you go outdoors, cover all exposed skin and, if possible, wear mittens instead of gloves. Wear two pairs of socks: the first pair should be of silk or a synthetic fiber that does not hold moisture; the second pair should be of wool.
- Beware of black ice on streets and sidewalks. Practically invisible, it can develop on dry pavement when condensation freezes in shaded areas.
- If you are using a space heater to stay warm, be sure to put it where it can’t be tipped over and keep it away from papers, drapery, and hanging coats. Don’t use an extension cord with a space heater. Make sure the power cord is in good condition, doesn’t present a tripping hazard, and is not covered up.
- Candles are not permitted on campus. If you use them at home, never leave lit candles unattended.
- To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, don’t use a gas-powered heater, or use a charcoal or gas grill indoors, and make sure the garage door is open before warming up your car.
- If you have pets, bring them indoors or provide shelter to keep them warm and make sure they have access to unfrozen water.