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Tips for avoiding frostbite and hypothermia

You don’t have to live in Alaska with subzero temperatures to be affected by frostbite and hypothermia. Both conditions can even occur at temperatures near freezing, especially if there is wind and moisture present. It is wise to take steps to avoid these cold weather dangers.

Frostbite occurs when skin tissue is exposed to cold temperatures over a long period of time causing the tissue to freeze. Frostbite usually occurs in the extremities like fingers, nose, ears and toes. The reason that these areas are affected is that when the body is exposed to cold for a long time, it constricts the blood vessels to the extremities in an effort to pump more blood to the vital organs leaving these areas more vulnerable to freezing. Skin affected by frostbite will look white or grayish yellow. The skin will feel very cold, hard or waxy. The affected area may also itch, burn or feel numb and swollen. Continued exposure can cause dark gray or black blisters to form. Because the frozen skin is fragile, it is important not to rub or massage the area.

The best way to treat frostbite is to very slowly warm the affected area by immersing it in warm water that is between 104 and 107 degrees. Do not use direct heat from a fire or heating pad because these heat sources can burn the damaged skin. Remove any clothing that might restrict blood flow to the affected area and elevate the area to reduce pain and swelling. After gently warming the frostbitten area, wrap it in a dry blanket. If the skin doesn’t return to a normal color, see a doctor.

When a person’s body temperature drops below 95 degrees, hypothermia can occur. This can happen in relatively mild temperatures if the person’s clothing is wet. When the body temperature drops, the vital organs are unable to function normally. If untreated, hypothermia can lead to death, especially in children or the elderly.

One of the first signs of hypothermia is severe shivering. The body is trying to warm itself by expanding and contracting the muscles but shivering can only produce a small amount of warmth. If there is no relief from the cold, the shivering will give way to drowsiness, confusion, shallow breathing, irregular heartbeat, slurred speech and lack of coordination. One of the unusual symptoms of hypothermia is that the person may try to remove clothing instead of adding warmer clothing. Researchers believe this happens because the body is rushing blood to the extremities, which makes the person feel like they are overheating.

The first thing to do to help someone with hypothermia is to move him to a warmer place. Remove any clothing that is wet. Cover the person’s head as well as the other parts of their body with blankets. Handle the person gently to avoid cardiac arrest. In most cases, it is best to seek professional medical help to treat hypothermia safely.

Respect the thermometer
Be aware of the temperature before going outdoors and dress accordingly. Wear several layers of clothing and don’t forget to cover your head, ears, nose and hands. Take extra care with your feet so that they stay warm and dry. If you get wet, get out of the cold and put on dry clothing. If your feet or hands experience the “pins and needles” sensation, take steps to get warm. Avoid alcohol when going outdoors. Alcohol may feel warm going down your throat but it actually constricts blood vessels, which makes the body more susceptible to the cold. Be aware that hypothermia can occur indoors in homes that are not properly heated. If the room feels cold, put on extra blankets, wear a hat and slip on socks to stay warm in a cold room.

Keeping warm
Cold temperatures are a real danger, especially to those who are recovering from a medical event or have multiple health concerns. Those who choose to convalesce in a short-term care facility, don’t have to worry about the dangers presented by cold, wet weather. They can enjoy the beauty of newly fallen snow from a window, safe inside knowing they do not have to venture into the cold.

A premier choice
If you start your search for a short-term rehabilitation center at Whitehall of Deerfield, you will not have to look any further. Whitehall of Deerfield has received Medicare’s highest rating in its five-star quality rating system of rehabilitation facilities and is accredited and certified by The Joint Commission, the nation’s leading and most respected health care accrediting authority. Quality care has always been and continues to be a priority at Whitehall of Deerfield.

When it comes to expertise, Whitehall of Deerfield is one of the best. A clinical nurse liaison works with each guest to design a personalized plan of service. One-on-one therapy is provided seven days a week by the area’s top therapists in multiple specialized gyms, which allows each guest to get the individualized services they need. Safety is also addressed in many ways, from accessible showers to barrier-free hallways.

There are few competitors than can match Whitehall of Deerfield’s ability to pamper their guests. Well-appointed rooms and suites feature world-class amenities including concierge service, high-speed wireless Internet, daily delivery of Starbucks coffee and newspaper, in-room massage and dozens of cable channels with a 24-hour channel of newly released movies. Guests select meals from menus and enjoy in-room dining. There are also complimentary fresh-baked treats and ice cream available at an on-site ice cream parlor and coffee shop.

Avoid the cold by choosing to stay at Whitehall of Deerfield. To schedule a tour or get more information, visit whitehallofdeerfield.com or call 847-945-4600.

300 Waukegan Road Deerfield, IL 60015 | 847.945.4600