News Spotlight: Health and Safety Precautions for Cold Weather Months
Wednesday, February 2, 2011


LANSING, MI - Winter in Michigan is a celebrated season despite the extreme drops in temperature posing serious risks and hazards.  To combat these potential dangers, there are specific guidelines citizens can follow to
stay safe and healthy throughout the cold weather months. 
Be extremely careful if you use a wood stove, fireplace or space heater
in your home. Always keep a multipurpose, dry chemical fire extinguisher
near the area you are heating.  Do not burn paper in your fireplace or
wood stove and do not leak flue gas indoors.  If you are using an indoor
gas heater, be sure it is located in a well-ventilated space and only
use the type of fuel recommended by the manufacturer. Regardless of the
type of heating device you are using, be sure that it is up to date and
meets all safety standards.
MDCH is also reminding people during this weather emergency about the
dangers of carbon monoxide.  Carbon monoxide is produced by gas-powered
engines, such as generators and automobiles.  It is odorless and
colorless and can kill you.  If you are using a generator to supply
power to your home, make sure the exhaust from the generator does not
enter the indoor air.  This means placing the generator away from air
intakes or doors and windows and not running it in an attached garage. 
If you have to shovel your car out of the snow, or are stuck in a
snowbank, and your car is running, make sure the area around the exhaust
pipe is clear of snow.  If you are using a generator and feel tired,
dizzy, or nauseous, get fresh air immediately and seek medical
attention.  For more information about carbon monoxide, see  Toxic fumes, such as carbon
monoxide, from old or faulty heaters can cause unconsciousness or death
from lack of oxygen.
While inside, monitor the indoor temperature carefully.  Because they
lose body heat much faster than adults, infants should never sleep in a
cold room.  It is also necessary for older adults to take extra home
heating precautions, as they tend to have slower metabolisms and
therefore make and retain less heat than other adults.
If you are caring for an infant or senior citizen, be sure to
frequently check that their homes are adequately heated.  If heating is
not at a safe level, making alternative housing arrangements is
recommended.  When the weather is extremely cold, and especially if
there are high winds, try to stay indoors.  Making trips outside as
brief as possible can help to reduce the potential dangers associated
with cold weather.
To remain healthy and safe this winter, please follow these
cold-weather tips while outdoors:
?Dress warmly and stay dry: Be sure to dress in layers in wind
resistant clothing. Wool, silk or polypropylene inner layers will hold
more body heat than cotton.  If your clothing is wet, go inside as soon
as possible. When inside, remove the wet clothing as soon as possible.
?Avoid exertion: Cold weather can put extra strain on the heart.  If
you have heart disease or high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s
advice about shoveling snow or other hard work in the cold.  The body is
already working hard to stay warm, so extra work can cause an overload.
?Cover exposed skin: Always wear a warm hat that covers ears, gloves
or mittens that cover the full wrist, and a scarf or ski mask to protect
face and neck.
?Be Safe During Recreation: Notify friends and family where you will
be before you go hiking, camping, or skiing. Avoid perspiring or
becoming overtired.  Be prepared to take emergency shelter.  Pack dry
clothing, a two-wave radio, waterproof matches and paraffin fire
starters with you. Do not use alcohol and other mood altering
substances, and avoid caffeinated beverages. Carefully watch for signs
of cold-weather health problems.
It is important to be aware of any changes in exposed skin during cold
weather periods. Frostbite and hypothermia are very serious conditions
that can be lessoned by early recognition and treatment.  Shivering can
be a good indicator that it’s time to go in, as it is the first sign
that the body is losing heat.  Frostbitten skin is hard, pale, cold and
numb.  When the frostbitten skin is in warm air, it will become red and
painful.  Very severe frostbite can cause blisters, gangrene (blackened
dead tissue), and deep tissue damage in tendons, muscles, nerves and
bones.  Hypothermia is a life-threatening condition that is caused by
short exposure to extreme cold or long exposure to mild cold.  Symptoms
of hypothermia include trembling, stiffness of muscles, puffiness in the
face, poor coordination, confusion, and low consciousness and
If you suspect frostbite, hypothermia or other complications
surrounding extreme weather, 
seek emergency medical care immediately.

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