With winter almost here, the Putnam County Department of Health encourages residents to continue to enjoy safe outdoor activities. Even if it’s cold, spending time outdoors can be beneficial for your health. Temperatures typically drop about ten degrees each October through January, with average lows in December around the freezing point of 32 degrees Fahrenheit. These cool temperatures require planning and care.
“Fresh air and the sun, combined with walking and other outdoor exercise, can have positive effects on a person’s physical and mental health, especially in winter,” the Commissioner said. health Michael J. Nesheiwat, MD. Dr Nesheiwat went on to say: “There are, however, some cold-related risks that everyone should be aware of. If a person’s body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit due to prolonged exposure to cold, it can lead to hypothermia, a serious and potentially fatal illness. When this happens, the heart, other organs, and the nervous system slow down and malfunction. If left untreated, it can lead to heart or respiratory failure, or even death. By being educated and taking simple preventative measures, residents can reap many benefits from participating safely in outdoor activities during the winter.
The elderly and infants are among those most at risk for hyperthermia because they are less able to regulate their body temperature. Symptoms to watch out for include chills, memory loss, clumsiness or poor coordination, slurred speech or mumbling, shallow or slow breathing, drowsiness or lack of energy, and loss of consciousness. . Infants with hypothermia may have bright red or cold skin and low energy. Medical attention is needed if hypothermia is suspected. While waiting for help, the person should be brought to a warm room and any wet clothing should be removed. To increase body temperature, cover the body and head with layers of blankets, leaving only the face exposed. If outside, insulate the person from the cold ground. Skin-to-skin contact can also help increase body temperature. If the person is alert and able to swallow, hot drinks will also increase body temperature. However, with severe hypothermia, a person may be unconscious and not have a pulse. Call for help and start practicing CPR.
Certain factors increase the risk of hypothermia. These include exhaustion, old age, very young age, mental health issues, dehydration, certain medications, and alcohol or drug use. However, anyone can experience hypothermia under the right circumstances. Even athletes can become hypothermic during strenuous outdoor activities, losing heat quickly if they become extremely tired, dehydrated, and wet from sweating. Hypothermia can also occur indoors, which is of particular concern in older people. Recommendations from the National Institute of Aging suggest setting the thermostat to at least 68 to 70 F. Infants under one year of age should never sleep in a cold room. To avoid loss of body heat, they should sleep in warm clothes, not with blankets that put them at a higher risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS.
Frostbite is another concern in cold weather. This injury is caused by freezing of a person’s skin and underlying tissue, typically the hands, feet, nose, ears, chin, and cheeks. Having poor circulation or not being properly dressed for the outdoors can put someone at an increased risk of frostbite. With early frostbite, also called frostbite, no permanent damage occurs. The first signs are cold skin with a tingling sensation, which leads to numbness. As frostbite worsens, discolored skin and a hard or waxy appearance of the skin develops. Discolored skin can vary: red, white, bluish-white, grayish-yellow, purplish, brown or ashy tones can result. The color depends on the severity of the frostbite and the usual color of the skin. Move to a warm environment as soon as possible and put the affected area in lukewarm water or use body heat to warm the area. It is not recommended to rub the area, it may increase skin damage. Frostbite should also be evaluated by a healthcare professional.
Wind chill and rain intensify the effect of low temperatures. In these situations, waterproof and windproof jackets and shoes may be needed to keep a person warm and dry. Wearing several layers of loose clothing, as well as hats, mittens or gloves and scarves are effective methods of limiting cold problems and enjoying all the benefits and fun of outdoor winter activities. Let’s also not forget that despite the increase in COVID vaccination rates, outdoor activities are still among the safest.
The mission of the Putnam County Department of Health, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), is to improve and protect the health of the Putnam County community of nearly 100,000 people. . Basic services include community health assessment, disease surveillance and control, emergency preparedness, environmental health protection, family health promotion, and health education. For more information, please visit the Putnam County website at www.putnamcountyny.com, or visit the Department of Health‘s social media sites on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @PutnamHealthNY.