Red Cross Stands Ready as Health Officials Warn of Frostbite, Hypothermia

Jan. 6, 2013

Officials with the Red Cross say they are in communication with local Emergency Management about any needs for shelters due to the cold weather in Central Virginia.

They say their disaster teams are ready to respond if they receive requests from Emergency Management.

At this time, The Red Cross says they are not aware of specific needs, but will work with Emergency Management to open shelters if need be.

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is encouraging everyone to protect themselves against serious health problems that can result from prolonged exposure to the cold.

“When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced, causing cold-weather health problems such as frostbite and hypothermia,” said State Health Commissioner Cynthia Romero, MD, FAAFP.

Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes. Frostbite can permanently damage the body and severe cases may result in digit or limb amputation.

Officials say, at the first signs of redness or pain in any skin area, get out of the cold or protect any exposed skin.

Any of the following signs may indicate frostbite:
-A white or grayish-yellow skin area
-Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy and numbness

A person is often unaware of frostbite until someone else points it out because the frozen tissues are numb. If you suspect symptoms of frostbite, seek medical care.

Hypothermia is an abnormally low body temperature caused when your body is losing heat faster than it can be produced.

Warning signs may include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech or drowsiness. In infants, warning signs may include bright red, cold skin or very low energy.

If you notice signs of hypothermia, take the person's temperature. If the temperature is below 95 degrees, it’s an emergency; seek medical attention immediately.

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