Exposure to cold can cause frostbite or hypothermia and become life-threatening. Infants and elderly people are most susceptible.
What constitutes extreme cold varies in different parts of the country? In the South, near freezing temperatures are considered extreme cold. Freezing temperatures can cause severe damage to citrus fruit crops and other vegetation. Pipes may freeze and burst in homes that are poorly insulated or without heat.
In the North, extreme cold means temperatures well below zero.
Wind chill is not the actual temperature but rather how wind and cold feel on exposed skin. As the wind increases, heat is carried away from the
body at an accelerated rate, driving down the body temperature. Animals are also affected by wind chill; however, cars, plants and other objects are not.
Frostbite is a damage to body tissue caused by extreme cold. A wind chill of -20 degrees Fahrenheit will cause frostbite in just 30 minutes. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose.
If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately! If you must wait for help, slowly rewarm affected areas. However, if the person is also showing signs of hypothermia, warm the body core before the extremities.
Hypothermia is a condition brought on when the body temperature drops to less than 95 F. It can kill. For those who survive, there are likely to be lasting kidney, liver and pancreas problems.
Warning signs include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. Take the person’s temperature. If below 95 F, seek medical care immediately!
If medical care is not available, warm the person slowly, starting with the body core.
Warming the arms and legs first drives cold blood toward the heart and can lead to heart failure. If necessary, use your body heat to help. Get the person into dry clothing and wrap in a warm blanket covering the head and neck. Do not give the person alcohol, drugs, coffee or any hot beverage or food. Warm broth is the first food to offer.
(Courtesy of National Weather Service)