Frostbite & Hypothermia
The Jefferson County Health Department shares the following information as a resource for individuals to consider as they complete their daily schedules during the winter. Parents should keep the safety of their children in mind. Family, friends, and neighbors are encouraged to remain alert to the needs of the elderly within each community to be sure their need for warmth is met as they complete their activities of daily living.
Prevention of frostbite and hypothermia depend on adequate nutrition, hot meals and warm fluids, adequate clothing (layered, loose fitting, windproof, and dry), and seeking shelter from the wind and cold.
At a temperature of 10 degrees Fahrenheit and wind speeds at 10 miles per hour, there is little danger of hypothermia or frostbite if properly clothed. At wind speeds of 15 miles per hour and a temperature of 30 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature will fee as though it is 9 degrees Fahrenheit. When the temperature is less than 32 degrees Fahrenheit and the wind speeds are 20 miles per hour, hypothermia and frostbite are likely with prolonged exposure. Hypothermia and frostbite are imminent without special precautions when the temperature is less than -10 degrees Fahrenheit and wind speeds are greater than 25 miles per hour.
People working or playing outdoors during the winter can develop frostbite and not even know it.
There is no pain associated with the early stages of frostbite, so learn to watch for these danger signs. First, the skin may feel numb and become flushed. Then, the skin turns white or grayish-yellow. Frostbitten skin feels cold to the touch.
If frostbite is suspected, move the victim to a warm area. Cover the affected area with something warm and dry. Never rub it! Get to a doctor or hospital as quickly as possible.
Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can cause hypothermia, especially in children and the elderly.
Watch for these symptoms:
- Inability to concentrate
- Poor coordination
- Uncontrollable shivering followed by a sudden lack of shivering
- Slurred speech
If the person's body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit, get emergency medical assistance immediately. Remove wet clothing, wrap the victim in warm blankets and give warm, non-alcoholic, decaffeinated liquids until help arrives. Nicotine, alcohol, and other drugs reduce blood circulation to the extremities and can increase the person’s chances of frostbite.