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Safety in Extreme Cold

In Western New York, winters can be cold. But when temperatures drop significantly below normal, it's important to be aware of the effects of frigid temperatures and take steps to protect your health and safety. See the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guide to extreme cold for more information about staying safe in uncommonly cold temperatures.

Staying Warm

  • Wear loose, lightweight, warm clothing in several layers. Trapped air between the layers acts as an insulator. Layers can be removed to avoid perspiration and subsequent chill.
  • Outer garments should be tightly woven, water repellent and hooded.
  • Always wear a hat or cap on your head since half of your body heat could be lost through an uncovered head.
  • Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs from extreme cold.
  • Mittens, snug at the wrist, are better than gloves as fingers maintain more warmth when they touch each other.

Frostbite

People working or playing outdoors in cold temperatures can develop frostbite and not even know it because there is no pain associated with the early stages of frostbite. At some temperatures, especially with wind chill below zero, frostbite can develop in a matter of minutes,

Frostbite typically appears on the extremities (fingers, toes, ears, etc.). Learn to watch for these danger signs:

  • The skin may feel numb and become flushed. Then it 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! Then get to a doctor or hospital as quickly as possible.

Hypothermia

Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can cause hypothermia, especially in children and the elderly.

Watch for these symptoms:

  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Exhaustion
  • Uncontrollable shivering followed by a sudden lack of shivering

If a 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, non-caffeinated liquids until help arrives.