Here’s How Quickly Hypothermia Can Harm You During New York’s Frigid Winter
As temperatures continue to drop all around New York State, the threat of hypothermia is real. University of Michigan Health System defines it as,
Hypothermia occurs when the body gets cold and loses heat faster than the body can make it.
Hypothermia can set it when your body temperature drops below 95 F. Contrary to what most of us think, hypothermia can happen indoors just as easily as it can happen outdoors if temperatures are low enough. According to Cleveland Clinic, it only takes 10 to 15 minutes for hypothermia to set in inside if it's cold.
Not having any heat in your home in the winter can be very dangerous. So is keeping your heat turned down too low. Both can lead to hypothermia.
As TikTok and other social media videos go viral quickly, some people have chosen to put their lives at risk for their 15-minutes of fame. I've seen plenty of videos of people "snow diving" or doing other things in the snow with only their underwear or a bathing suit on. Even though it may seem like a harmless, fun video, it can easily lead to hypothermia or frostbite.
Frostbite is an injury caused by freezing of the skin and underlying tissues. In the earliest stage of frostbite, known as frostnip, there is no permanent damage to skin. Symptoms include cold skin and a prickling feeling, followed by numbness and inflamed or discolored skin. As frostbite worsens, skin may become hard or waxy-looking.
In addition to cold temperatures leading to hypothermia, there are other certain factors that can lead to it:
- Age (especially the very young and the elderly)
- Medical conditions like dementia, low blood sugar, and high blood pressure
- Medication, including antidepressants, barbiturates, and tranquilizers
- Outdoor activities that lead to excessive sweating
- Using alcohol or drugs
Emergency medicine physician Thomas Waters, MD, told Cleveland Clinic,
“If you’re going to be anywhere affected by colder temperatures — whether inside your home in the winter, going for quick drive in your car, or in any environment that may see a sudden drop in temperatures — be prepared and consider taking along a survival kit that includes blankets, water, some emergency food and a heavy coat. You never know what can happen out there.”
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It's important that you are aware of the symptoms of hypothermia, especially if you are exposed to really cold temperatures:
- Exhaustion or feeling very tired.
- Fumbling hands.
- Memory loss.
- Slurred speech.
For infants and children:
- Cold, bright red skin.
- Low energy.
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The symptoms of frostbite are:
- At first, cold skin and a prickling feeling
- Skin that looks red, white, bluish-white, grayish-yellow, purplish, brown or ashen, depending on the severity of the condition and usual skin color
- Hard or waxy-looking skin
- Clumsiness due to joint and muscle stiffness
- Blistering after rewarming, in severe cases
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