1/24/03 - Cold Weather Dangers

The bitterly cold weather can be dangerous. It doesn't take long for the frigid conditions to cause you some serious health problems

. We all know how these frigid conditions can be a real shock to our systems, but just a few minutes outside can expose you to serious health problems like frostbite or hypothermia.

"It's not that bad," Jerry Aufdenberg says. That's easy for him to say. Aufdenberg's got a job to do, siding and roofing a house, so he can't stop for the weather. But he does stop to get himself ready. "I keep plenty of layers on, insulated underwear. I've got a sweatshirt under my jacket," Aufdenberg says. It's a good thing he has all those layers on, or his fingertips could end up frostbitten. Frostbite, which is the actual freezing of your skin, can come on quickly if you're not careful. Southeast Hospital ER Director Rick Flinn says, "People have come in from exposed skin. Either they didn't put a hat on, or wear the right gloves that day." Flinn says your nose, earlobes, fingertips, and toes get the coldest the quickest, because more than likely they're not covered up enough. "It starts with tingling, then many times it's just like when you're outside it gets pink and that's at first," Flinn says. That's called frost nip. If it gets worse your exposed skin will get pale, stiff, and then numb, then it's frostbite.

So how can you protect yourself? Wear several layers of lightweight clothing. Cover your head. Wear mittens, they keep your fingers warmer. Wear waterproof shoes or boots, and be sure to cover your ears, nose, chin, and forehead. Hypothermia can also happen in the cold weather. It's when you're body basically shuts down, with a temperature of 95 degrees or less. Signs of hypothermia can be forgetfulness, drowsiness, or slurred speech. When your skin gets cold, believe it or not, you should not stick it under hot water. The best thing to do is to warm it gradually. Again, be sure to wear plenty of layers in this type of weather, and stay inside as much as you can.