Preparing for severe cold
Saturday, January 04, 2014 12:03 AM
Snowy situations like the one seen above are expected during the winter. However, according to the National Weather Service, the cold snap following this weekend’s snow could be potentially life threatening. (Times Bulletin/Lindsay McCoy)
Times Bulletin Staff Report
VAN WERT — It’s not just the snow. According to meteorologists, the most severe part of this weekend’s winter storm will probably be the cold temperatures and the arctic winds. In fact, the National Weather Service has advised that the cold streak following the snow is a potential life threatening situation.
According to the NWS, with a wind chill temperature of -32, frostbite is a concern after just 10 minutes of exposure. Areas most commonly affected by frostbite are exposed areas and areas with less blood flow such as hands, feet, ears, nose and face.
The elderly and children are particularly susceptible. In addition, persons with circulation problems (such as those with diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, peripheral vascular disease, and Raynaud’s syndrome/phenomenon); history of previous cold injuries; and those who ingest particular drugs (such as alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and beta-blockers) are at higher risk. Although there is no medical reason, it seems that persons from southern or tropical climates may also be more at risk.
Aside from people, animals are especially at risk. Pet owners are urged to safely secure animals inside a warm garage or building, or bring them into home during these severe winter conditions. A dog kept inside a garage will need a doghouse built specific to an animal and have straw or even wood chips inside for warmth.
Pets should be given additional food and unfrozen, drinking water. Cats should be kept inside. Cats may seek the warmth found under car hoods and be injured by the fan belt when the car engine is started. If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang on the car hood before starting the engine to give the cat a chance to escape.
Limit dogs’ outdoor activity. Clear snow and ice from their foot pads and thoroughly wipe off your dog’s legs and stomach to remove salt and antifreeze. Short-haired breeds will benefit from a dog sweater. If an animal seems to be showing signs of hypothermia, such as a lower heart rate and weak pulse, get it inside and wrap the animal in a blanket and place warm water bottles, also wrapped in towels, next to the animal.
If looking after an elderly person, the Ohio Department of Aging suggests checking in on older loved ones and neighbors during cold temperatures to ensure that they have the resources they need to stay safe and healthy. Check the indoor items like seeing if the heating system is working and at the right temperature and if any other heaters could be fire risks. Check on needed medical supplies like prescriptions and oxygen, as well as food and water that can be accessed without electricity. And be sure there is a working telephone for use in an emergency. If that is a cell phone, make sure it is charged.
Be sure to dress for the weather. Proper clothing for winter weather insulates from the cold, lets perspiration evaporate and provides protection against wind, rain, and snow. Wear several layers of light, loose clothing that will trap air, yet provide adequate ventilation. This is better protection than one bulky or heavy covering. The best fabrics for the cold are wool, polyester or polypropylene and water-repellent materials (not waterproof, which holds in perspiration). Down coats and vests are warm, but if the down gets wet it loses its insulating properties.
Be sure to cover head and neck with hats, hoods, scarves, earmuffs and face masks. Protect feet and toes. with two pairs of socks. Wool is the best sock choice, or cotton socks with a pair of wool on top. Well-fitting boots should cover the ankles. As for hands, mittens are warmer than gloves but may limit what the wearer can do with their fingers. Wear lightweight gloves under mittens so there’s still have protection if the mittens are taken off to use fingers.
In such severe conditions, dress appropriately, stay near adequate shelter, avoid alcohol and tobacco and avoid remaining in the same position for long periods.
Mild frostbite affects the outer skin layers and appears as a blanching or whitening of the skin. The first symptom is a “pins and needles” sensation. Other symptoms include swelling, itching, burning, and deep pain as the area is warmed. Usually, these symptoms disappear as warming occurs, but the skin may appear red for several hours. In more severe cases, the frostbitten skin will appear waxy looking with a white, grayish-yellow or grayish-blue color. The affected part(s) will be numb. The tissue will feel frozen or “wooden” to touch. More severe frostbite will result in blisters filled with clear or milky fluid. This indicates a very serious condition. In even mild cases of frostbite, it is strongly recommended to seek medical assistance.