Back to back blasts of cold weather have given Central Texas rounds of subfreezing temperatures, much earlier than we typically see them. It’s important to remember that exposure to cold can quickly put a person in danger, if not careful.
Shivering is the body’s initial attempt at keeping up with heat loss, producing heat in the muscles. It’s considered a reflex and a first response to a drop in core temperature.
Frostbite can occur with continued cold air exposure and only when the air temperature is below freezing. This sets in when skin becomes very cold and red, then numb, hard and pale. It most often occurs on exposed skin on fingers, toes, noes, ears, cheeks and chin as blood rushes to protect the more important inner-organs. The color of our skin can act as a good indicator of frostbite:
— Frostnip (first stage): skin is red & numb
— Superficial frostbite (secondary stage): skin is pale and/or white
— Frostbite: skin is turning black, permanent damage likely
Symptoms of frostbite include:
- At first, cold skin and a prickling feeling
- Red, white, bluish-white or grayish-yellow skin
- Hard or waxy-looking skin
- Clumsiness due to joint and muscle stiffness
- Blistering after rewarming (severe)
Did you know: Frostbite can occur on skin even if covered by gloves or other clothing.
Did you know: In cold weather, mittens are actually better than gloves because the fingers have direct skin-to-skin contact & can share body heat.
Hypothermia occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can produce it, causing a dangerously low body temperature. When the body’s temperature reaches 95°F or less, loss of function in inner organs can occur. Symptoms of hypothermia include:
- Slurred speech or mumbling
- Slow, shallow breathing
- Weak pulse
- Clumsiness or lack of coordination
- Drowsiness or very low energy
- Confusion or memory loss
- Loss of consciousness
- Bright red, cold skin (in infants)
The onset of hypothermia can occur faster with strong winds and/or submerged in water/wet weather.
Did you know: Body heat is lost 25 times faster in cold water than in cold air.
Last year (2018), 36 people died of cold weather-related illnesses, above the 10-year and 30-year averages.
In order to protect yourself in cold weather, you should dress appropriately with the following:
- Warm hat
- Multiple, warm layers
- Water-proof boots
- Face mask, goggles (extreme cold)
Did you know: 40% of your body heat can be lost from your head which is why it’s so important to wear a hat in cold weather.
Other safety reminders:
— Pets are out of the cold (four-walled structure to block wind + straw for insulation) and have plenty of food/water
— Make sure your gas tank is full
— Protect pipes by keeping a small drip running &/or opening up cabinets to expose pipes to heated air inside
— Keep a safety kit + blankets inside your vehicle, that includes a flashlight + battereis, food, water, ice scraper, radio, extra clothes, etc.