The Pryor Times

December 7, 2013

Preventing hypothermia in winter weather

Staff Writer
Cydney Baron

PRYOR, OK — Winter weather means increased risk for hypothermia

“Hypothermia, also called Exposure, is a very real danger in winter months,” said Mayes County Emergency Management Deputy Director Mike Dunham. “But, generally speaking, hypothermia is avoidable by taking a few precautions.”

Dunham said to avoid hypothermia, which is having dangerously low body temperature, keep warm and dry and wear layered clothing if you must go outdoors. Emergency Management also suggests wearing a cap to prevent rapid heat loss. Dunham said 40 percent of a person's body heat can be lost from an uncovered head.

“Also cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extreme cold. Gloves are good, but mittens that are snug at the wrists are even better,” said Dunham.

“Avoid fatigue or exhaustion. We know you'll have to shovel your driveway or clean off a car but it's important not to overexert yourself. Consider stretching to warm up your muscles before going outdoors,” said Dunham.

He also recommends taking breaks from physical activities outdoors to go inside to heat up.

He said outer garments, coats,sweaters and hats, should be tightly woven and water repellent.

“Symptoms of hypothermia include intense shivering, muscle tension, fatigue and a feeling of cold or numbness,” said Dunham. “Hypothermia can become more severe with prolonged exposure. Look for slurred speech, lethargic or erratic behavior, feelings of being disoriented or absentminded as those can be symptoms of advanced hypothermia.”

Body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making it difficult to think clearly.

“Hypothermia requires medical attention immediately. If medical attention is not immediately available began to slowly warm the body,” Dunham, also a paramedic, suggests.

“Get in a warm room as soon as possible and start slowly warming back up,” said Dunham, who discourages the use of heating pads or heating lamps for frostbite as affected areas are often numb and can be burned easily.

“The best advice is always to simply stay inside unless you absolutely have to go out,” said Dunham. “Mayes County Emergency Management is setting up warming stations if necessary.”

These stations will be a place where individuals can go to warm up. If anyone is in need of a warming station they can call emergency management at 918-825-4650.