January 3, 2008
Freezing temperatures, chilling winds, ice storms and snow can create severe problems for Texans who are more often used to dealing with heat waves. The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) urges people to take extra precautions against hypothermia and other winter-related dangers.
Hypothermia, the severe or prolonged loss of body heat, begins when a person’s body temperature falls below 95 degrees. Because the temperature drop may be gradual, and an early symptom of hypothermia is mental confusion, the victim may not know a problem exists.
People most susceptible to hypothermia include those 60 and older, infants and small children, the sick, those taking certain prescription drugs or drinking alcohol, the homeless, auto or boating accident victims and those unable to find temporary shelter in cold weather.
To reduce potential dangers:
- Watch for hypothermia symptoms including confusion, drowsiness, slurred speech, a drop in blood pressure, shallow breathing and a pinkish tint to the skin. Anyone with these symptoms related to cold temperatures is in immediate danger. Get medical help right away.
- Check on elderly or ill people, especially if they live alone or in isolated areas.
- Wear several layers of loose-fitting clothing, mittens, hat and a face cover. Stay dry.
- Be extremely cautious in the wind. A strong wind, even in only moderately cool weather, can cause a wind chill far below freezing.
Winter storms also may cause power outages, leading to food safety problems. If you lose power for more than four hours, take these precautions with refrigerated food products:
- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.
- Discard any potentially hazardous foods such as meats, eggs, dairy products and leftovers that may have exceeded 40 degrees. When in doubt, throw it out.
- Any frozen food that has thawed but not exceeded 40 degrees should be prepared as soon as possible. Do not re-freeze.
DSHS officials warn that people should not underestimate cold weather and should dress appropriately. Anyone planning outdoor activities in cold weather should check local weather forecasts.
(News Media: For more information contact Emily Palmer, DSHS Assistant Press Officer, at 512-458-7400.)