The extreme cold temperatures over the next few days can pose some very unique and potentially life-threatening health risks for those exposed to the elements.
As the temperature drops, there is also the risk of developing serious problems like hypothermia. Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature reaches subnormal levels, and can be fatal. Children, the elderly and those with chronic health problems are particularly vulnerable.
Wind-chill factor is what the weather feels like to exposed skin when the wind speed is factored into the cold temperatures. Not only does it make the temperature feel colder, the wind chill can dramatically increase the rate at which the weather can have detrimental effects on the body.
"Following a few common-sense practices can prevent problems related to the cold," says Dr. Stephen Keener, medical director for the Mecklenburg County Health Department.
He offers the following suggestions:
TO AVOID HYPOTHERMIA:
Dress in layers of clothing that are wind- and water-proof.
Cover your head and neck. Much of the body's heat is lost through those areas of the body.
Avoid cotton fabrics, especially close to the skin. Cotton will get wet and stay wet, and wet skin will freeze faster.
Wear warm socks (wool or another wicking material) and waterproof shoes or boots.
Avoid alcohol; it can interfere with the body's temperature control system.
Stay hydrated. You still sweat, even when it is cold.
Eat a balanced diet containing a variety of healthy food choices.
Colds, the flu and other illnesses are more readily spread during the winter but not due to direct exposure to cold temperatures. The cold weather keeps us indoors and in closer contact with one another for longer periods of time. It also keeps our homes closed up tight to keep the cold air out, while also keeping in the germs.
TO AVOID COLDS AND FLU:
Keep hands away from eyes, nose and mouth.
Wash hands frequently, especially after using the bathroom and before eating.
Avoid contact with persons who have a cold, sore throat or flu.
Get the proper amount of rest.
Minimize stress; it can lower your immunity.
If possible, avoid crowds during cold and flu season.
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