When exposed to the cold, the body loses heat faster than it can be produced. Eventually, one's stored energy is used up with the result being hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature.
Foremost in staying safe is to wear proper outdoor attire. Dress in layers, wear multiple pairs of socks, and be sure to cover as much of the face and ears as possible. Also, wear a hat because a large part of the body's heat escapes through the top of one's exposed head.
Don't forget to check on senior citizens and shut-ins. Victims of hypothermia are often elderly people with inadequate food, clothing, or heat; babies sleeping in cold bedrooms; people who remain outdoors for long periods -- the homeless, hunters, hikers, etc.; and those who drink alcohol or use illicit drugs.
The warning signs of hypothermia for adults are:
- Shivering and exhaustion
- Confusion, fumbling hands
- Memory loss, slurred speech
In infants, be on the lookout for:
- Bright red, cold skin
- Very low energy level
If any of these signs are noted, get the victim into a warm place. Warm the center of the body first. Give them a warm beverage, if conscious. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Don't forget our four-legged friends when extreme weather strikes. Domesticated animals, in particular, need protection from the cold. In fact, pets are equally as vulnerable as humans.
If animals have to be left outside, please make certain they have proper shelter and food, and change their water frequently, because it will freeze almost instantly.
Severe cold can prompt some to use extraordinary means to stay warm.
Remember, alternative heat sources of fuel or electricity for heating or cooking can cause deadly carbon monoxide (CO) to build up in a home, camper, or garage and poison the people and animals inside. (CO) is the single biggest cause of poisoning deaths in the United States each year.
Important CO tips include:
- Never use a gas range or oven to heat a home.
- Never use a charcoal grill or camping stove inside the home.
- Never run a generator inside a home, basement, or garage, even with windows open.
Exposure to carbon monoxide can cause loss of consciousness or even death. The most common symptoms are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting and confusion.
People who are sleeping or who have been drinking can die from CO before even having symptoms.
In 2002, Mecklenburg County enacted an ordinance requiring a working CO alarm in every residence. This is a good time to check that battery so that one will be protected in the event of an accidental poisoning.
For much more information on how to stay safe from carbon monoxide, visit
Learn more about recognizing frostbite and your best defenses against extreme temperatures.