Braving the Cold

By: Rachel Calderon
By: Rachel Calderon

Kirk Ballard will spend the next 25 minutes cleaning up a bus shelter on Lansing's south side, but he says he's prepared to face the frigid temperatures.

"I have two layers on top, and just my pants. My legs never really get cold, it's just my upper body," Kirk Ballard, CATA maintenance worker.

Even with layered clothing, Kirk and anyone else outside should be wearing a hat, as we tend to lose up to 40 percent of our body heat from our heads.

With temperatures well below freezing, remember: if you don't have to be outside, you probably shouldn't be. But if you are outside, keep in mind it doesn't take long for you to be at risk for a cold-related injury.

"I would say about five to 10 min before you feel it. Especially with the wind blowing, it starts to get rough and you know it's time to get inside," said Kirk.

"Even in this weather, you could be out all day and if your face has been exposed, you can end up with frostbite on your face, cheeks and nose," Dr. Tony Briningstool, M.D.

Dr. Briningstool says the emergency dept. At Ingham Regional Medical Center will treat cold-related injuries ranging from mild frostbite to trench foot or hypothermia when people don't cover up exposed skin.

Three layers should be worn to protect from wind, absorb sweat and retain insulation, and one to allow ventilation.

The U.S. Department of Labor has some tips to protect workers in cold environment: www.osha-slc.gov/oshdoc/additional.html

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Preparing for Cold Weather

  • Be alert to weather changes

    Pay close attention to weather changes, especially when the temperature falls quickly within a short period of time.

  • Put on adequate clothing

    Put on dry, light and comfortable clothes that are good for keeping warm. Do not put on clothes that are too bulky, and do not dress too tightly, which may restrict blood circulation or hinder body movements. Be sure to keep the head, neck, hands and feet warm.

  • Sufficient food and drink

    Eat and drink hot and easily digestible food and beverages with higher calories, like hot milk, soup, noodles and rice. Alcohol is not a good means for keeping warm. Although one feels warm immediately after drinking alcohol, it actually accelerates the loss of body heat, as alcohol dilates blood vessels.

  • Keep your home warm

    Keep your home warm, but well ventilated. To keep out drafts, repair cracks in windows, doors and walls. When using electric heaters, make sure there is indoor ventilation. Do not overload the electrical sockets which could overheat and lead to fire or burn injuries.

Hypothermia

What is hypothermia?

  • Hypothermia occurs when your body's control mechanisms fail to maintain a normal body temperature.

  • Normal core body temperature can range between 98.9 F and 99.9 F. An internal body temperature of 95 F or lower signals hypothermia.

  • Signs and symptoms that may develop include gradual loss of mental and physical ability. Severe hypothermia can lead to death.

  • Nearly 700 Americans die of hypothermia each year.

  • Those at greatest risk are older adults, who account for half of hypothermia-related deaths, and children.

Tips to avoiding hypothermia

Before you or your children step out into cold air temperatures, remember this simple advice: C-O-L-D.

  • C for Cover Wear a hat or other protective covering to prevent body heat from escaping from your head, face and neck. Cover your hands with mittens instead of gloves. Mittens are more effective than gloves are because mittens keep your fingers in closer contact with one another.

  • O for Overexertion Avoid activities that would cause you to sweat a lot. The combination of wet clothing and cold weather can give you the chills.

  • L for Layers Wear loose-fitting, layered, lightweight clothing. Outer clothing made of tightly woven, water repellent material is best.

  • D for Dry Stay as dry as possible. In the winter, pay special attention to places where snow can enter, such as in loose mittens or snow boots.

Source: A compilation of Web Reports contributed to this report.


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