The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • Emergency Room ready for cold ailments

  • The bitter cold affecting our area greatly increases the danger of frostbite and hypothermia.
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  • The bitter cold affecting our area greatly increases the danger of frostbite and hypothermia.
    With temperatures around zero and savage winds driving the wind chill into the minus zero range, the time a person can stay exposed these conditions when outdoors is greatly reduced.
    Frostbite is the actual freezing of skin or body parts such as fingers of toes through loss of blood circulation. Hypothermia occurs when the bodies core temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Hypothermia can be fatal and frostbite can lead to the loss of extremities and permanent scaring of skin.
    Dr. Robert Hodson, Emergency Room doctor at Harrisburg Medical Center says that with the temperature and wind speed combination, a person will begin to experience injury to exposed skin in 5 to 10 minutes at the most.
    “We have not had any admissions to the emergency room from cold related injuries, yet. People have been pretty good about staying in out of the cold,” Dr. Hodson said, Monday. “I was surprised, I thought we would have a few patients.”
    Staying indoors is not a challenge for most on days when wind chill reaches −22 degrees. Monday morning after dawn the temperature was −2 degrees.
    The warning signs of cold related health problems are sleepiness, slurred speech, confusion, change in skin color and loss of consciousness. Uncontrollable or severe, prolonged shivering may be a symptom, though usually some slight shivering is a sign of a normal response to cold by a healthy person. The onset of frostbite is signaled by a noticeable change in skin color and a numbness followed by a stinging or burning sensation.
    Treatment for cold related health problems is first and foremost warming the body in a warm and dry environment. Wet or cold clothing should be removed and warm dry clothing put on. Hot drinks or soup can be consumed to assist warming though alcohol should be avoided.
    In the case of frostbite, the affected areas of skin or extremities can be warmed with warm — not hot — water but heating pads, stoves, fireplaces and radiators should not be used as a warming source. The skin or extremities should not be rubbed either during the warming process or once circulation returns. After circulation returns, professional medical attention should be sought to prevent permanent damage to the body.
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