Parts of the body most commonly affected by frostbite due to exposed
skin include the face, ears, hands, and feet. Frostbitten skin is
whitish and stiff, and the area will feel numb rather than painful.
To treat frostbite, warm the affected part of the body gradually.
Wrap the frostbitten area in blankets, sweaters, coats, etc. and
seek medical attention immediately. Do not rub frostbitten areas
because the friction can damage the tissue.
Hypothermia is caused by a drop in body temperature to 95 degrees
Fahrenheit (F) 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 mildly cool
indoor temperatures of 60 to 65 degrees can trigger hypothermia.
Infants and the elderly are particularly at risk of hypothermia.
Signs of hypothermia include:
· Slurred speech
· Weak pulse
· Slow heartbeat
· Very slow, shallow breathing
If you notice these symptoms, take the person’s temperature. If the
person’s temperature is 95 degrees 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. Do not give a hypothermia victim a hot shower or bath
because it could cause shock. Do not try to treat hypothermia at
home. The condition should be treated in a hospital.
Dressing for the cold
If you need to be outside, the following suggestions will help keep
you warm and protect your body from excessive heat loss.
Wear several layers of lightweight clothing rather than one or two
layers of heavy garments. 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 head.
Wear mittens rather than fingered gloves.
Wear warm leg coverings and heavy socks or two pairs of lightweight
Wear waterproof boots or sturdy shoes that give you maximum
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.
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Cold weather itself, without any physical exertion, puts an extra strain on your
heart so know your limits when shoveling snow, especially if you do not exercise
regularly. If you have a history of heart trouble or any chronic health
concerns, talk to your health care provider before shoveling snow. You should
rest frequently and pace yourself when shoveling. Remember to lift the snow with
your legs, not your back. If you use a snow blower, never use your hands to
unclog the machine. If you become breathless, stop, go indoors and warm up
before continuing. If you experience chest or arm pain or numbness, stop
immediately and go indoors; you may need to call 911. Overexertion can cause
sore muscles, falls, and heart attacks.
For people needing to use alternative sources of heat, IDPH has the following
Any heater that uses wood, coal, natural gas, or kerosene produces carbon
monoxide (CO), so adequate ventilation is essential.
Never use a generator indoors, even with open doors or windows.
Do not use charcoal or gas grills indoors.
Do not use a gas oven to heat your home.
You cannot see or smell carbon monoxide, but at high levels it can kill a person
Symptoms of mild to moderate CO poisoning include headaches, dizziness, nausea
and lethargy. Higher levels of CO exposure can cause fainting, confusion and
collapse and if exposure continues, death can result.
Weathering Winter information can be found on the IDPH website, and additional
safety information is available on the state’s Ready Illinois website at
[Illinois Department of Public