Eskenazi Health Recommends Caution in Freezing Weather

Bone-chilling temperatures in the teens will soon envelop Central Indiana, so it’s critically important that everyone prepare to face the serious and potentially debilitating health and safety concerns caused by exceedingly cold weather.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), when exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up your body’s stored energy of causing hypothermia or other serious conditions that have the potential to cause permanent damage to the body. Frostbite is also very common, especially for individuals who are homeless.

Frostbite is an injury caused by freezing, often resulting in a loss of feeling and color in affected areas such as the nose, ears, cheeks, fingers or toes. This injury can permanent damage to the body, sometimes leading to amputation. Frostbite risk is increased in people with decreased blood circulation and people not properly dressed for extreme cold temperatures. 

Hypothermia or an abnormal low body temperature usually caused by long periods of time in the cold, and if a person becomes chilled by rain or sweat in cool temperatures. This injury has the potential to affect the brain, causing the victim to not know it is happening. Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, exhaustion, confusion and slurred speech.

“Central Indiana residents can get so accustomed to the winter weather, but it is still important to be prepared,” said Tyler Stepsis, M.D., medical director of the Michael & Susan Smith Emergency Department at Eskenazi Health. “Utilizing a winter emergency kit for your vehicle and obtaining portable mobile chargers, booster cables, flashlights, first aid kits and items to stay warm will help keep you and your loved ones safe during unexpected emergencies.”  

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 states that approximately 70% of injuries from snow or ice are in the form of motor vehicle accidents, with 25% resulting in people caught outside in a storm.  

Here are some useful tips that will help you stay warm during the winter months and reduce health risks:

  • 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.  
  • 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. 
  • 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.

headingtoline link-1-arrow minus next-arrow plus prev-arrrow radio-off select-icons radio-on