Joseph Kuchinski, DO, Chairman of Emergency Medicine at Trinitas Regional
Medical Center, offers the following suggestions for being safe during severe
cold weather. "There are big health risks to infants, the elderly, travelers
and pets when the temperature drops to freezing and below," says Dr. Kuchinski. "This is especially true when the temperatures are in the 20s,
teens or single-digits".
How can you cope with the cold? Here are some tips:
TRINITAS TIP: Wear layers of warm, dry clothing, including hats and gloves.
TRINITAS TIP: Make sure your coat or jacket's outer layer is water
TRINITAS TIP: A hat makes a tremendous difference in keeping body heat from
escaping, without wearing a hat a person can lose 90% of their body heat
from their exposed head.
TRINITAS TIP: Wear mittens or gloves, to keep hands warm. Mittens are
preferable because each finger keeps the rest of the fingers warm, where as
gloves individualize each finger.
TRINITAS TIP: Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages as alcohol constricts the
blood vessels bringing them closer to the surface of the skin, thereby
making the person colder.
TRINITAS TIP: Drink plenty of water and hot beverages such as coffee, tea,
hot chocolate, and soup; this will allow for the body temperature to remain
TRINITAS TIP: Avoid shoveling your own sidewalks and driveway unless you're
physically fit. Any sudden intense aerobic exercise like shoveling can put
you at risk of heart attack.
Wind chill, wet clothing, alcohol consumption, poor circulation, weariness
and some medications can make people more vulnerable to frostbite. Symptoms
include tingling sensations on your nose, ears, toes, and fingers as well as
red skin (early stage), whitened skin (middle stage), hard skin (severe),
blisters, and blackened tissue (severe, gangrenous stage).
TRINITAS TIP: If you do get frostbitten, warm the skin gradually. If it's
your fingertips, put them under your arms; cover your ears. The most
important thing is not to rub the traumatized skin. You can create more
Hypothermia occurs when the body's core temperature drops. It doesn't happen
in a matter of minutes like frostbite, but slowly over several hours of
exposure to cold. The possible result: coma and death. Wearing wet clothing
or being immersed in cold water for any length of time heightens that risk.
Signs of hypothermia are slurred speech, slow pulse, loss of coordination,
loss of bladder control, stiff muscles, a puffy face, and mental confusion.
If you suspect hypothermia, call 911 immediately and get to a Hospital
Cold Weather Protection for Pets
TRINITAS TIP: Coats and booties can help your dog stay warm. In particular,
short-haired or elderly dogs benefit from wearing a coat or sweater. Look
for coats or sweaters with high collars or a turtleneck that covers the dog
from the base of the tail on top to the belly underneath.
TRINITAS TIP: Remember to be very careful with sick or older dogs, since
they are more sensitive to cold weather. For any dog sensitive to the cold
due to age, illness or breed type, take him outdoors only to relieve
TRINITAS TIP: Clip the fur between toe pads to reduce the amount of snow
that collects between toes.
TRINITAS TIP: To help protect dry, sensitive paws, try coating them with a
bit of cooking spray before walks in very cold weather.