Dangers of exposure to bitter cold temperatures

Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — With temperatures dipping the lowest in decades, wind chills making them feel dangerously colder, snow piling up and schools called off for multiple days it may seem necessary to get out of the house and spend time outside.

But even minutes exposed to temperatures this low can have serious consequences. While it’s important to dress in layers and avoid trapped air between loose fitting clothing, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the local forecasts and warnings. Also, minimize your exposure to the cold and if you must go out in it, waterproof yourself, stay dry and wear insulated boots.

From seniors to children and every age in between, Dr. Denice Logan from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is offering safety tips and facts while West Michigan faces this historic cold:

  • Cold air heightens the risk for heart attack: Low temperatures can cause blood vessels to narrow, decreasing oxygen flow to the heart and increasing the risk for a potentially fatal heart attack. Immediately go indoors and seek help if you experience pain, discomfort, pressure or squeezing in your chest, develop an upset stomach or discomfort in one or both arms or jaw.
  • Children and seniors are at a higher risk: The risk for cold-related injury and death is greater for children, seniors, smokers and those with a history of asthma, high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol. If you have any of these conditions or a family history of them, talk to your physician before venturing out in the cold.
  • Frostbite can set in quickly: In cold, wet and windy conditions, frostbite can occur in as little as 30 minutes. For wind chills of 13 degrees and below, move activities indoors and outside of the cold. Those who experience loss of feeling and lack of color in the skin should seek medical attention immediately.
  • Hypothermia can occur in mild conditions: When the body temperature has fallen below about 95 degrees Fahrenheit, a person can experience hypothermia. Warning signs include lack of coordination, mental confusion, slowed reactions, slurred speech, uncontrollable shivering, and drowsiness.
  • Wind chill can be a guide: Use the wind chill as the best judge on if it’s too cold to go outdoors. In general, when the wind chill is 32 degrees and above, it’s safe to be outside. In temperatures 13 degrees to 31 degrees, indoor breaks should happen every 20 to 30 minutes.

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