facebook Eskenazi Health Emergency Medicine Physicians Suggest Caution in Frigid Conditions
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Severe winter weather overexposure can cause a variety of injuries

Indianapolis, Dec. 26, 2017 – Seasonably chilly temperatures have enveloped Central Indiana and it’s vital that everyone prepare to face the serious and potentially debilitating health and safety concerns caused by extremely cold weather.

Severe winter weather and the frigid conditions that come with it can make staying warm a challenge, increasing the risk 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. 
 
“When spending extended periods of time outside during dangerously cold conditions, it becomes essential to preserve the body’s internal temperature,” said Dr. Tyler Stepsis, medical director of the Michael & Susan Smith Emergency Department at Eskenazi Health. “Staying warm requires consistent movement to increase circulation. You’ll also want to wear several layers of warm, soft clothing nearest your skin, expanding to more wind-resistant materials farther away from you.”
 
The elderly, infants and children are most susceptible to adverse reactions to extreme cold, along with individuals who use drugs and alcohol, and those who remain outdoors for long periods of time. People suffering from cancer, HIV, mental illness, heart disease and diabetes are also at-risk. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Heavy snow and ice storms are also serious threats to the roads during the winter months, often stalling or paralyzing entire areas, cities or regions. The National Weather Service reports that approximately 70 percent of injuries from snow or ice are in the form of motor vehicle accidents, with 25 percent resulting in people caught outside in a storm. 

 
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, ice scraper, pocketknife, antifreeze and granola bars.
 
“Adhering to a number of simple precautions can make all the difference in avoiding a variety of harmful injuries brought on by frigid temperatures,” Dr. Stepsis said. “We recommend relaxing as much as possible and doing everything you can to stay warm during this difficult and challenging time.”
 
Most importantly, Dr. Stepsis stresses that staying indoors and avoiding the roads, especially during storms when temperatures are below freezing and wind chill temperatures are low, are the most effective preventative measures in staying healthy and safe this winter.

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MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Surber
Phone: 317.880.4793
Cell: 317.402.9327
Pager: 317.310.5972 
Email: thomas.surber@eskenazihealth.edu

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