Emergency-room physicians are urging people to understand cold-weather health risks and take precautions to avoid cold-related medical emergencies.
When temperatures drop, the risk of illness or injury can rise, especially for children and seniors, according to a news release from the American College of Emergency Physicians. Overexposure to cold can be very dangerous, and it is easier to get hypothermia than most people think, the release said.
Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature cools too fast and drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Signs of hypothermia include drowsiness, confusion, slurred speech, weak pulse or shallow breathing. Slower cognitive abilities, impaired decision making and failing motor skills can make it harder to recognize and get out of danger.
People with certain medical conditions are more at risk, including diabetics with low blood sugar or smokers with impaired circulation. Individuals struggling with substance use disorders, mental health issues or those without stable housing are also especially susceptible to hypothermia.
The American College of Emergency Physicians suggests preparing for an emergency by:
• Gathering emergency supplies in anticipation of power loss or other utility/service shutdown.
• Installing and maintaining smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
• Heeding weather reports and warnings from the experts.
• Being mindful of family members’ specific needs, including medications. And, don’t forget pets.
• Keeping an emergency supply kit in your car that includes jumper cables, a flashlight, warm clothes and bottled water.