Bitter Cold Temperatures Could Mean Health Concerns

By: Tim Studebaker

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LINCOLN, R.I. – Southern New England is seeing some brutally cold temperatures, and the winds make it feel even worse.  All that cold weather can really take a toll on your body, especially if you work outside or stay outside for too long.

It’s some of the coldest air we’ve seen all year.  With many folks planning to head outdoors for the upcoming New Year’s Eve celebrations, that cold air can turn dangerous if you don’t take the right precautions.

So, what if you work outside or you plan to be out on New Year’s Eve?  You’ll want to be aware of the dangers of long exposure to the cold.  One of those dangers is frostbite.

Dr. William Tyler Smith with Lincoln Urgent Care says, “Mild frostbite, what you’ll see is sort of whitish skin.  When it’s severe, the sores become bloody, the skin becomes yellowish, and there’s very little give to it.”

Extremities, like your hands and feet as well as your face, are most susceptible to frostbite.  There are warning signs before it sets in, like numbness.

Dr. Smith says, “Really the main thing is just to get into a warm environment.  That’s if it’s mild.”

He says severe cases need to be treated in the emergency room.

Another problem in the cold is hypothermia.

Dr. Smith says, “Hypothermia is a profound loss of core body temperature.  Normal as you know is 98.6.  Hypothermia is when you get from 95 on down.”

He add hypothermia is a life threatening condition that requires emergency medical treatment. 

Dr. Smith says, “[A] bad sign for hypothermia [is] when you stop shivering.  That’s not good.  It means your body’s giving up.”

He also says changes in how you act or think are a bad sign.

Risk factors for both conditions include a lack of proper clothing, long periods of time outside, and exposure to water.

As temperatures drop on New Year’s Eve, the situation could become even more complicated for those who decide to drink.  Dr. Smith went on to suggest having someone similar to a designated driver who stays sober and makes sure everyone in your group stays safe out in the cold.

©WLNE-TV / ABC6 2017