Alabama residents should take precautions when the state faces prolonged periods of cold weather. Cold weather emergencies can occur at times of low temperatures, high winds and high humidity.
Hypothermia is a lowering of temperature of the body's inner core, and can occur when outside temperatures are as high as 45 degrees Fahrenheit. When the core temperature falls, bodily functions begin to shut down.
Most hypothermia victims are elderly persons who, for a variety of reasons, are unable to keep sufficiently warm in the winter. An elderly person's core temperature can drop without them being aware of it, and an aging body is less capable of reversing a fall in temperature. Risk factors for hypothermia include:
- Disorders that reduce production of body heat
- Impaired mental function
- Reduced mobility
- Use of drugs such as tranquilizers
Symptoms of hypothermia may include:
- Impaired judgement
- Impaired vision
If hypothermia is suspected, get the victim professional medical care immediately, and follow these methods to maintain warmth:
- Get victim out of the wind and rain.
- Remove wet clothing and replace it with dry or wool clothing.
- Use body heat to warm the victim. Get inside a sleeping bag with the victim or wrap yourself in a blanket with them. If several people are with you, have everyone huddle around the victim.
- If the victim is conscious, have them drink warm fluids such as sweetened tea, broth or juice, and have them eat quick-energy foods such as candy.
- Do not allow victim to drink alcoholic beverages in any circumstance.
Protect Yourself Against Cold Weather
If you must be outside for prolonged periods of time in cold weather, ADPH recommends the following precautions:
- Dress warmly in layers of clothing and wear fabric that remains warm even when wet, such as wool.
- Wear wind- and weather-proof clothing, including a warm hat and gloves.
- Take shelter if you get wet or cold.
- Do not drink alcohol while in the cold - it causes the body to lose heat faster.
For more information, visit Alabama Emergency Management and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.