With record low temperatures, snow levels, and wind chill throughout much of the midwest and eastern U.S. this winter, it’s important to take proper precautions to protect yourself against the cold. Very cold temperatures can pose a health risk to everyone, but especially older adults, children, and people with pre-existing health conditions.

  • Frostbite: Areas that are most likely to get frostbite are the extremities, such as fingers, toes, ears, and nose, which get less blood flow when it’s very cold. If the temperature is below zero degrees Fahrenheit, bare skin can freeze in as few as 5 minutes. Symptoms of frostbite include numbness, tingling or stinging, aching, and pale or blue skin. To protect against frostbite, dress in loose layers and stay dry. If you notice signs of frostbite, go inside immediately and slowly warm the affected area using lukewarm water.
  • Heart attacks: If you have high blood pressure or a heart condition, the cold can be a major issue. Your heart has to work harder to keep you warm when it’s cold, which means that exertions like shoveling a driveways through of heavy snow can push it over the edge. If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, sweating, nausea, vomiting, irregular heartbeat, or blue skin, call 911 immediately.
  • Hypothermia: If your body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit for a prolonged period of time it can be fatal. Elderly individuals and very young children are especially at risk. People with hypothermia start out as feeling very cold, then they may become socially withdrawn, confused, and sleepy. To prevent hypothermia, wear warm, loose layers with good foot, hand, and head coverings. If you start to notice symptoms of hypothermia, you should seek medical attention immediately. If none is available, change into dry clothes and wrap in a warm blanket. Warm drinks help, but do not shower or bathe, as that can cause shock.

Stay warm, happy, and healthy this winter by taking some simple precautions. When possible, stay warm and dry indoors and enjoy extra time with loved ones!


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