Hypothermia can be fatal, and it can be preventable. Between 1999 and 2011, an average of 1,301 deaths per year in the United States were associated with exposure to excessive natural cold.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 67% of hypothermia-related deaths were among males. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data_access/vitalstatsonline.htm.

Hypothermia can affect anyone and happens in a wide range of temperatures - especially if there is prolonged time being damp or wet, causing a drop in body temperature. Over the years, local media has reported numerous deaths from hypothermia involving young and old, including outdoor sports enthusiasts, persons with dementia, homeless, off-road drivers/riders, and those intoxicated or using drugs.

Those exposed to periods of cold during power outages may be especially vulnerable.

Watch for signs among the elderly, babies, young children, those working or recreating in cold, wet or damp conditions. Often people most at risk are unaware of their loss of ability to think clearly and move easily.

Protect yourself against hypothermia and frostbite during cold weather.

Wear proper clothing, including layers that cover your skin, such as:

-- mittens, rather than gloves, if practical

-- wind-proof, water-resistant outwear

-- two pairs of wool or thermal fiber socks

-- hat and scarf or facemask, covering ears (major body heat can be lost through the top of one's head)

-- replace any wet clothing next to skin with dry immediately.

Know the signs and symptoms; observe them in others:

-- drowsiness and confusion

-- weakness and loss of coordination

-- pale and cold skin (babies may be bright red)

-- slowed breathing or heart rate

-- uncontrollable shivering

-- lack of shivering may signal dangerously low body temperature

Avoid:

-- extremely cold temperature and high winds

-- wet clothing; exposed skin

-- tight clothing or boots,

-- cramped positions

-- fatigue, overexertion

-- alcohol consumption, smoking

-- certain medications (check with your doctor regarding effects of your medications)

Lethargy, cardiac arrest, shock, and coma can set in without prompt treatment. Prepare for time in the cold by being well-rested, and bringing food/snacks and plenty of (non-alcoholic) fluids. People with diabetes or circulatory problems, should maintain good health and regular check-ups in order to reduce the risk of blood vessel complications.

Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect someone has hypothermia or frostbite. Call 911!

This message is brought to you by Lyndon Rescue -- Over 40 years serving the NEK.

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