Millions are enduring a deadly winter storm without power and during extremely low temperatures. Staying safe can be a challenge.
Here are some things you can do to prevent hypothermia and frostbite:
Hypothermia: This happens after you have been exposed to very cold temperatures for a prolonged period of time and your body loses heat faster than it is produced. This low body temperature can affect your brain, causing you not to think clearly, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Being aware of the signs of hypothermia is critical because you might not realize it is happening.
- Exhaustion or feeling very tired
- Fumbling hands
- Memory loss
- Slurred speech
What to do: If you are not able to get medical help right away, start with trying to warm the person up.
- Focus on heating up the chest, neck, head and groin area. The CDC says if you don't have power, use skin-to-skin contact under layers of clothes or blankets.
- Warm drinks can help increase the body temperature.
- Once they are warmed up, make sure the person is dry and wrap their body, including their head and neck, in a blanket.
Frostbite: This can lead to a loss of feeling and color in your body – typically your extremities like your nose, ears, cheeks, fingers or toes. The CDC says you may not notice you have frostbite until someone else points it out because the frozen parts of your body will be numb.
- A white or grayish-yellow skin area
- Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
What to do: The CDC says you should get medical care right away, but in an instance where a person is showing signs of frostbite and not hypothermia and you cannot get medical care, here's what you can do:
- Do not walk on the feet or toes that show signs of frostbite, unless it is absolutely necessary.
- Do not rub the frostbitten area, this causes more damage, according to the CDC. Also don't use things like a heating pad, heat lamp, fireplace or radiator – because the area is numb, it could get burned.
- Put the frozen areas in warm water. The water should be comfortable to touch with unaffected parts of your body, not hot. If warm water is not available, use body heat.
Remember: These tips are not substitutes for proper medical care. Hypothermia is a medical emergency and frostbite should be looked at by a doctor. Get medical care as soon as you can safely.