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State says to watch for signs of hypothermia and frostbite

Published: Monday, Jan. 6, 2014 11:05 p.m. CDT
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(Sarah Nader – snader@shawmedia.com)
Despite the freezing cold weather James Bennett of Woodstock takes his daily walk around his neighborhood Monday. Subzero temperatures are expected through Tuesday morning with wind chills ranging from 30 to 50 degrees below zero.

With the deep freeze expected to continue until midday Tuesday, the state warned residents to be aware of the signs of hypothermia and frostbite.

A wind chill warning from the National Weather Service is in effect until noon Tuesday, as wind chills are expected to reach 35 to 45 degrees below zero.

“It is important to recognize the signs of hypothermia and frostbite, how to treat these conditions and what you can do to avoid them,” Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck, the director of the state’s department of Public Health, said in a news release.

Hypothermia occurs when a person’s body temperature drops to 95 degrees or less. It can be fatal if not detected and treated properly. Signs of hypothermia include forgetfulness, drowsiness, slurred speech, change in appearance, weak pulse, slow heartbeat, very slow and shallow breathing and having the appearance of death or being in a coma.

People should seek medical help if they see these symptoms.

“Everyone should take precautions against hypothermia, but infants and the elderly are particularly at risk and should be monitored closely,” Hasbrouck said.

Frostbite is caused by bitterly cold temperatures and typically affects exposed areas of the face, ears, wrists, hands and feet, according to the news release. Skin that is frostbitten is whitish and stiff, and the area will feel numb.

The public health department recommends that people wear several layers of lightweight clothing to keep warm. People should cover their heads, and wear mittens rather than gloves.

Wearing warm leg coverings and heavy socks, or multiple pairs of lightweight socks is useful.

The ears, nose, chin and forehead are most susceptible to frostbite, according to the public health department.

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