Overexposure to cold may result in hypothermia, which occurs when the body temperature drops below normal. Normal body temperature ranges from 36.1° to 37.8° Celsius (97° to 100° Fahrenheit). Symptoms of hypothermia may include pale skin, lethargy, confusion and hallucinations. In the initial stages a person may shiver a lot, but as their body temperature drops shivering may also decrease.

Symptoms of frostbite include:

  • Areas of skin turning red, blue or a grey/white
  • Pain, numbness and stiffness, especially in fingers, toes, ears and nose which are most susceptible

If you suspect frostbite:

  • Gently warm the affected skin or immerse in warm, not hot water
  • Don’t rub the area—re-warming may take 30-60 minutes
  • Seek emergency medical treatment for a severe, blistering case of frostbite

If you suspect someone may be suffering from hypothermia:

  • Seek medical attention immediately
  • If possible, move the person to a warm area and dress them in warm clothing. Offer warm water, juice or milk.
  • Do not offer alcohol or hot drinks (alcohol alters blood flow, making surface blood vessels open wider allowing the body to lose heat faster, providing a false sense of being warmer).

To avoid hypothermia or frostbite people are advised to:

  • Dress warmly in layers—with warm gloves and boots.
  • Wear a hat—30% of body heat escapes through the head.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration (remember that drinks containing caffeine can dehydrate).
  • Alcohol consumption makes hypothermia more likely.
  • Limit outdoor activity.

Remember not to leave pets outside for any length of time – they are just as susceptible to the dangers of cold as we are.

For more information contact the Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit at 519.352.7270