Extreme cold weather puts forth risks for hypothermia and frostbite, doctors say

Winter Weather New Hampshire
Posted at 5:21 PM, Dec 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-21 20:45:06-05

Arctic air is expected to hit Middle Tennessee on Thursday, leading doctors to warn people to bundle up.

The extreme cold could lead to hypothermia or frostbite, as the body fights to stay warm.

Doctors suggest starting with something lighter, like a sweater, and building up to something heavier, like a big winter jacket. They also advise covering up your ears, nose, and fingers too.

All will help prevent you from getting frostbite or hypothermia.

"With the temperatures, we’re going to see down to close to 0 at night and single digits during the day. Those will prolong your ability to stay outside for a little while. You still need to come in every 30 mins or an hour to warm up," said Dr. Marshall Hall, TriStar Skyline Medical Center.

Dr. Hall said you’re trying to prevent your body temperature from dropping below 95 degrees because once it drops, your brain starts to slow down.

"When we get below 90 degrees that’s when we start to see heart issues. Then you get below the 80s, and that’s when we worry about sudden cardiac death, and the heart just stops functioning," Dr. Hall said.

It can be difficult to spot someone suffering from hypothermia because people don’t change much physically. People may have slurred speech, shallow breathing, or memory loss.

Frostbite is a little easier to spot on your fingers, toes, or even ears.

"Frostbite is when the tissue actually freezes and the water in our body in the area of cells actually freezes and crystalizes. When that happens, it can damage those tissues irreversibly," Dr. Hall explained.

He said if you work around water, be extremely careful and don’t get wet.

Dr. Hall said the unhoused population, lower-income families, and the elderly are the most vulnerable populations because of the cold.

"Our living situation, our food situation, family and friends — a lot of that determines what our health is like," Dr. Hall said.

If you think someone is suffering from hypothermia, call 911 and take them to the ER immediately.

If you have frostbite, Dr. Hall said to come into a warm area and let your body reheat itself. For example, don’t take your finger and dip it into hot water. Dr. Hall said to call the doctor or go to the ER.

He also suggests — if you have time — do a welfare check on your neighbors.

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