Avoid a cold weather-related emergency with these hot tips


A Man Walking Into A Store On Main Street In Rapid CityRAPID CITY, S.D.– With the cold weather not going away for a while, Monument Health Physician Assistant Mike Jensen has some important tips to help residents avoid any medical emergencies related to the extreme weather.

Frostbite versus Hypothermia

While both are related to the cold, there are differences between both medical issues when looking for signs. Frostbite tends to have more noticeable physical signs, such as discoloration of exposed skin. Colors could be white, red, blue, purple, or even more extreme such as brown or black. As the color darkens, the worse it is.

Signs of hypothermia include intense shivering and even strong feelings of fatigue. “If you’re outside doing stuff and it’s kind of cold, you shouldn’t be feeling tired just randomly all of a sudden,” Jensen explained. “That should clue you in that if you’re all of a sudden just feeling like, ‘oh my gosh, I feel like I could take a nap’, that may clue you in that you’re starting to get some hypothermia.”

How fast they can set in

Usually once you get to about zero degrees it can happen in as little as 30 minutes. And if you’re about 15 below zero… it can happen [in] as little as 15 minutes. That’s probably a little bit more for the frostbite side of things,” Jensen said. “Hypothermia would probably also happen in a relatively short period of time, depending on health conditions and different things like that.” Jensen also says that the people most vulnerable to frostbite and hypothermia include elderly citizens and young children. Children and adults with disabilities are also at risk due to possibly having a hard time conveying if they are cold. And diabetic residents should also be careful, as symptoms such as neuropathy may make it hard to determine when the parts of their body suffering from neuropathy are too cold.

How to prevent medical emergencies

In the event of someone showing signs of either conditions, the important thing is to get them someplace warm. For frostbite in particular, never submerge the affected part of the body in hot water. Lukewarm temperatures are better-suited. Hypothermic people should focus on removing any wet articles of clothing to avoid retaining the cold in the body.

For both however, the most important thing is to keep warm. “Bundling up, using layers– especially covering those areas that are more exposed to the wind, like the nose, the ears. Having a cap that covers the ears fully, a face mask if they’re going to be out there a long time so the nose is covered,” he said. “Obviously, good gloves or super boots that are going to be more waterproof. Really staying warm and doing everything you can to limit the amount of time that you’re outside.”

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News