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Indianapolis, Jan. 18, 2019 – As brutally cold weather continues to descend on Central Indiana and forecasts calling for heavy snow and ice this weekend, it becomes important to review suggestions on how to take precautions and avoid the overexposure to frigid conditions.

The colder it gets, the more challenging it can be to stay warm. Exceedingly cold temperatures dramatically increase the chances of developing hypothermia, frostbite, dehydration, trench or immersion foot and other related illnesses or health concerns. In addition, serious safety hazards such as ice- and snow-covered roads and walkways, power failures, and carbon-monoxide poisoning from the use of fireplaces or heaters results in hundreds of deaths and injuries each year during periods of extreme cold.

“Keeping your body’s internal temperature at a normal level is necessary whenever you spend extended periods of time outside in dangerously cold temperatures,” said Dr. Tyler Stepsis, medical director of the Michael & Susan Smith Emergency Department at Eskenazi Health. “Wearing several layers of warm clothing is always advisable, and consistent movement to increase circulation will help keep your body functioning properly.”

In addition, you should always consider wearing non-skid soles with good traction because you never know when invisible “black ice” might be lurking below your feet. Also, be especially careful when shoveling snow. Shoveling can raise your heart rate and blood pressure very quickly.  Often times people shovel their driveway very quickly without resting or staying hydrated.  It is suggested that you take lots of breaks and drink hot fluids

Those most susceptible to adverse reactions to extreme cold are infants and the elderly, in addition to those who use drugs and alcohol. Those who suffer from diabetes, mental illness, HIV, heart disease and cancer are also at high risk, along with individuals who spend a great deal of time outdoors. Here are some useful tips that will help you stay warm during the winter months.
 
•             Monitoring and maintaining body temperature, especially for infants and older adults who lose heat more quickly, is very important.

•             Your body needs more fuel in freezing temperatures to keep your internal furnace burning. Eat high-fat snacks like chocolate, cheese, and nuts, because fat is a slow-burning fuel that keeps your body going  for the long haul, which becomes even more important in the cold.

•             Heat your home properly and safely, using only certified space heaters and fireplaces when necessary.

•             Drink plenty of warm beverages, like tea or hot chocolate, to keep you warm. The sugar in sweet beverages will help to generate body heat.

•             Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated drinks, as these may contribute to a decrease in body temperature and cause your body to lose heat at a more rapid rate.

•             Always wear a hat, scarf and insulated gloves or mittens to reduce the chance of frostbite or injuries to your extremities. Also, wear layers and stay dry to avoid chills that can reduce body heat.

•             You may want to consider pre-warming your gloves and boots by a heater before going outside, so your fingers and toes feel toasty the instant you put them on.

•             Avoid overexertion when participating in outdoor chores or activities, as cold temperatures put a significant strain on the body, increasing the risk of heart attack or chills due to sweating.

Always be mindful that heavy snow and ice storms are serious threats to the roads during the winter months causing serious automobile crashes that cause terrible injuries. If ever your car becomes stalled and won’t run or you’re stuck behind a wreck for long periods of time, Dr. Stepsis suggests having a well-equipped emergency car kit packed away in the trunk of your car. This emergency car kit should include items like blankets, jumper cables, a flashlight, candles and matches, an ice scraper, pocketknife, antifreeze and granola bars.

“If you’re ever stranded in your car during the winter season, do all you can to relax as much as possible and do whatever you have to do to stay warm,” Dr. Stepsis said. “We also encourage you to stay indoors whenever excessively cold temperatures and wind chill temperatures are dangerously low.”

The Michael & Susan Smith Emergency Department is one of the busiest emergency departments in the state, treating more than 100,000 patients each year. For more information, please visit EskenaziHealth.edu.

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