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West Sacramento Sun

Dangerously Cold Weather

Jan 12, 2023 12:00AM ● By By Michele Townsend

As a result of getting wet from rain, sweating, or being submerged in water for any reason, due to the cold, hypothermia can set in. Photo: Hubert Buratynski/Pixabay

WEST SACRAMENTO, CA (MPG) - Every winter, when temperatures start to drop, people start having various health problems. Nobody ever thinks it will happen to them, but sickness and death are a real threat with severe temperature changes. Maybe it won’t be you, but what if it’s someone you love that gets stranded in the snow? It doesn’t even have to be snow.

Hypothermia can set in at temperatures as high as 40°F. As a result of getting wet from rain, sweating, or being submerged in water for any reason, due to the cold, hypothermia can set in. When exposed to cold temperatures, the body loses heat faster than it can produce it. This will eventually use up the body’s stored energy, which will in turn lead to lower body temperatures.

When the body’s core temperature descends too low, it begins to decrease brain activity thus causing the victim’s thinking abilities to be diminished. Additionally, low temperatures also slow down physical mobility, which makes hypothermia even more dangerous, causing an individual to often times remain unconsciously in the cold for even longer periods. The most common victims of hypothermia are older adults with inadequate food, clothing or heat, and babies sleeping in cold bedrooms. Individuals who spend long hours outdoors like the homeless, hikers and hunters are also at risk. Those using alcohol or illicit drugs are at high risk as well since their senses are already dulled.

Some of the signs of hypothermia for an adult are as follows: shivering, exhaustion or feeling very tired, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech, and drowsiness. For babies – look for bright red skin, cold skin and very low energy. If you are concerned someone may be hypothermic, DON’T WAIT. Hypothermia is a medical emergency. If you notice any of the above signs, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95 degrees, get medical help immediately.

If you are unable to get medical assistance right away, try to warm the person up. Get the person into a warm space. Remove any wet clothing. Warm the center of the person’s body – chest, neck, head and groin – using an electric blanket if available. If one is not available, use skin to skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing, towels or sheets. Warm drinks can help but no alcohol.

Even people that are not headed to the snow should have a winter kit in their car because you just never know what will happen. It may not be you who ultimately needs it. You may save someone’s life. Keep a kit in your car that includes blankets, extra socks, juice and water. Other tips include keeping your gas tank full so that no ice forms in the gas tank or lines. Make sure your antifreeze levels are correct and keep extra containers of the fluid in your trunk.

Remember to weatherize your home and to bring your pets inside. Hypothermia can affect animals just as easily. Stay safe and be smart.

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