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Staying Healthy In Winter Weather

Winter Ready 2019

On average, a major winter storm hits some part of Michigan at least once per month between October and April. In 2012, the last year that statistics were available, 20 people died in Michigan as a direct result of severe winter weather, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health. This is in addition to victims of traffic crashes due to slippery roads and those who suffered heart attacks while shoveling snow.

What is wind chill?
Wind chill is the perceived temperature resulting from the effect of the wind, in combination with cold air, which increases the rate of heat loss from the human body.

What is frostbite and what can you do to treat it?
Frostbite is damage to body tissue caused by that tissue being frozen. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, or the tip of the nose. Frostbite varies in severity from frostnip to deep frostbite, depending on the length of exposure, temperature to which the skin is exposed, and wind speed. For frostbite place firm, steady pressure from a warm hand against the area. Also, blow on the surface holding the frostbit area against the body. Do not rub the area, apply snow, or plunge it into very hot or cold water. Victims of severe frostbite must receive prompt medical attention.

What is hypothermia and what are the warning signs?
Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature drops to 95 degrees or lower. It can develop when body heat loss exceeds heat gain. Hypothermia is not exclusive to winter. It can occur during the wind and rain of spring and summer. Hypothermia is often mistaken for fatigue, irritability, or dehydration and may include some of these signs: abnormal decision making; improper response to cold; apathy; lethargy; decreased cooperation; slurred speech; disorientation; shivering; stumbling and stiffness progressing to inability to move.

How do you treat hypothermia?
Treating mild to moderate hypothermia (body temperature greater than 90 degrees Fahrenheit, conscious, shivering, able to walk):

  • Prevent further heat loss. Get the person into a warm area, remove wet clothing, and cover them with blankets.
  • Rewarm by warming the center of the body first including chest, neck, head and groin. Rehydrate with warm broth.
  • Get medical attention.

Treating severe hypothermia (body temperature less than 90 degrees, unconscious, not shivering):

  • Prevent further heat loss
  • Get medical attention immediately