"With more arctic weather forecasted for Illinois, it is important
to recognize the signs of hypothermia and frostbite, how to treat
these conditions, and what you can do to avoid them," said Dr.
Hasbrouck. "Everyone should take precautions against hypothermia,
but infants and the elderly are particularly at risk and should be
Hypothermia is a drop in body temperature to
95 degrees Fahrenheit or less and can be fatal if not detected
promptly and treated properly. The condition usually develops over a
period of time, anywhere from a few days to several weeks. Even
consistent, mildly cool indoor temperatures of 60 degrees to 65
degrees F can trigger hypothermia.
Infants lose body heat more quickly than adults, and the elderly
often make less body heat because of a slower metabolism and less
physical activity. The Department of Public Health recommends
setting the thermostat above 65 degrees F and checking on elderly
friends and neighbors frequently to ensure their homes are
Signs of hypothermia include:
appearance, such as a puffy face.
Very slow, shallow
Coma or deathlike appearance, if the
body temperature drops to or below 86 degrees F.
If you notice these symptoms, take the person's temperature. If
it is 95 degrees F or below, call a doctor or ambulance, or take the
victim directly to a hospital. A drop in temperature below 90
degrees can create a life-threatening situation. To prevent further
heat loss, wrap the person in a warm blanket. You also can apply a
hot water bottle or electric heating pad (on a low setting) to the
person's abdomen. If the person is alert, give small quantities of
warm food or drink. Do not give a hypothermia victim a hot shower or
bath. It could cause shock. Do not try to treat hypothermia at home.
The condition should be treated in a hospital.
Frostbite is caused by bitterly cold temperatures and typically
affects exposed areas of the face (cheeks, nose, chin and forehead),
the ears, wrists, hands and feet. When spending time outdoors during
cold weather, be alert for signs of frostbite. Frostbitten skin is
whitish and stiff, and the area will feel numb rather than painful.
If you notice these signs, take immediate action.
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To treat frostbite, warm the affected part of the body gradually.
Wrap the frostbitten area in blankets, sweaters, coats, etc. If no
warm wrappings are available, place frostbitten hands under your
armpits or use your body to cover the affected area, and seek
medical attention immediately. Do not rub frostbitten areas. The
friction can damage the tissue.
If you must go outdoors during below-freezing temperatures and
the wind chill is below zero, dress properly for the weather.
layers of lightweight clothing. The air between the layers of
clothing acts as insulation to keep you warmer.
Cover your head.
You lose as much as 50 percent of your body heat through your
rather than fingered gloves. The contact of your fingers keeps
your hands warmer.
Wear warm leg
coverings and heavy socks or two pairs of lightweight socks.
Cover your ears and the lower part of
your face. The ears, nose, chin and forehead are most
susceptible to frostbite. Cover your mouth with a scarf to
protect the lungs from directly inhaling extremely cold air.
You can find more information in the IDPH Weathering Winter
Providing essential health information during emergencies is one
way the Illinois Department of Public Health is working toward
becoming the state's leading public health authority and
implementing the department's five-year strategy. For a copy of the
strategic plan, go to
Illinois Department of Public
Health file received from the
Illinois Office of Communication and Information]