Special Precautions Should Be Taken When Outside in Extreme Cold Conditions

Eskenazi Health warns public to be prepared for winter blast

CONTACT: Todd Harper
Phone: 317.880.4785
Pager: 317.310.5972  
E-mail: Todd.Harper@eskenazihealth.edu
 
Indianapolis
, January 3, 2014 -- Forecasters are predicting record cold temperatures to hit Central Indiana hard and bring with it several dangerous health concerns. Some health conditions associated with the cold include hypothermia, dehydration, trench and immersion foot, and frostbite. In addition, ice and snow causes thousands of injuries and fatalities each year on American roads.

“There are several precautions people should take when outside in extreme cold conditions for extended periods. The first is to dress appropriately by wearing several layers of clothing,” said Dr. Frank Messina, an emergency medicine physician at the Michael & Susan Smith Emergency Department at Eskenazi Health. “It is important to keep moving. This will help increase your circulation and will make you feel warmer and more comfortable.”

Dr. Messina also stressed it is important to eat and drink hot meals and hot liquids, which help to provide warmth and energy on the coldest days. He also said the elderly and young are especially susceptible to cold-related illnesses (as well as those with cancer, HIV, heart disease and diabetes).
 
Other tips doctors suggest following when out in extreme cold conditions include:
  • Always wearing a hat and/or scarf
  • Avoid alcohol consumption
  • Wear insulated gloves and socks to prevent frostbite injuries to fingers and toes
  • Drink warm liquids like tea and hot chocolate. Sugar contained in these beverages helps the body to generate additional heat (caffeine may seem beneficial but should generally be avoided, as it may contribute to heat loss)
  • Avoid wet clothing, shoes or socks, as wet clothes may further contribute to a loss of body heat
Winter’s chill can also cause problems on roads. Ice and snow-covered roads are a major source of accidents resulting in severe injury and death. According to the National Weather Service, winter weather often catches people unprepared. Researchers have found that 70 percent of the fatalities related to ice and snow occur in automobiles, and about 25 percent of all winter-related fatalities are people who are caught off guard.
 
“As a Level I trauma center we see a variety of injuries in the winter months that could be avoided or limited by following some simple precautions,” said Dr. Messina. “The most important advice is to just slow down, stay warm and take it easy.”

Eskenazi Health has a long history of providing Central Indiana with state-of-the-art emergency services. Eskenazi Health operates one of the busiest emergency departments in the state of Indiana, serving over 100,000 patient visits in 2011 alone. There are several features of the Michael & Susan Smith Emergency Department at Eskenazi Health, including the Smith Level I Shock Trauma Center at Eskenazi Health, a 90-bed treatment room emergency department, a 16-bed clinical decision unit, a hazardous materials program, and the Center of Hope for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.