With the National Weather Service predicting dangerously cold wind chills across Richland County, health officials are issuing a special public health advisory to prevent cold-related illness and death.
If outdoor activity is essential, everyone must be especially careful and mindful of the risks posed by severe cold.
With low temperatures and even moderate wind, common outdoor activities can quickly become life threatening, even for those appropriately dressed for the outdoors. Exposed flesh such as the nose and ears can freeze within 30 seconds at minus -30 degrees wind chill.
Half of all cold related injuries and deaths occur among healthy, adequately clothed individuals involved in outdoors sports. Especially hazardous are open areas such as lakes and fields, where winds can build rapidly.
Life-threatening hypothermia can develop rapidly, especially if a person is wet or damp. Shivering is the first sign of hypothermia. As hypothermia progresses, lack of coordination, slurred speech, confusion and drowsiness can occur.
If shivering begins the individual should immediately move indoors. Also, alcohol consumption followed by outdoor activity can be deadly, as the alcohol tricks the body into thinking it is warm when it isn’t.
Other cold weather tips include:
- Avoid touching metal surfaces with uncovered hands – flesh will freeze immediately to the surface.
- Layer clothing and use hats and ski masks to cover nose and ears when going outdoors. Hard, pale, cold extremities coupled with numbness are signs of frostbite.
- Plan for the unexpected to happen; in your car, carry a survival kit including blankets, sleeping bags, extra clothing and high-energy foods.
- Be sure your car’s gas tank is at least half-full and your battery charged.
For more information, please call Richland County Health and Human Services at 647-8821.