Staying safe in the winter months

Published 8:01 pm Saturday, December 11, 2010

By Heather McGinley

Staff Writer

Mother always said to stay warm, eat well, drink plenty of fluids and stay active. These are good practices for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and apparently they help avoid hypothermia and frostbite, as well.


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According to a press release from the Virginia Department of Health, there have been three hypothermia-related deaths in recent weeks in the Hampton Roads area. With even colder weather on the way, it is important to know the symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite and how to prevent both.

Symptoms of hypothermia include:

• Poor coordination

• Slurred speech

• Confusion

• Blueness or puffiness of the skin

• Dilation of the pupils

• Decreased respiratory rate

• Weak or irregular pulse

A person’s likelihood to experience hypothermia increases with:

• Poor physical condition

• Thin build

• Inadequate nutrition

• Not enough protection from the cold

• Fatigue

• Illness

• Alcohol intoxication

It is also important to be aware of the symptoms of frostbite. When a person has frostbite, they may experience a prickling sensation and numbness, and the skin may turn a bright red.

The best way to avoid frostbite is to dress warmly, making sure the ears, fingers and toes are not exposed to the cold. Infants are particularly susceptible to frostbite because they lose body heat more quickly than older people, so avoid taking infants out into the cold.

To treat frostbite, run warm water over the affected area.