National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce
 

If you or someone you care about must venture outdoors during extreme cold this winter, dress in layers. Cover exposed skin to reduce your risk of frostbite or hypothermia. Try to seek shelter from the wind as much as possible while outside. Once inside again, change into dry clothing immediately if you are wet. Understand and watch for frostbite and hypothermia.

+Watch for Frostbite

+Frostbite First Aid

Get indoors as quickly as possible. Until you can get indoors:
  • Don't rub or massage cold body parts.
  • Put your hands in your armpits.
  • Hold onto another person or animal.
  • Drink warm liquids.
  • Put on extra layers of clothes, blankets, etc.
  • Remove rings, watches and anything other tight jewelry or related items.

Once indoors:

  • Don't walk on a frostbitten foot. You could cause more damage.
  • Get in a warm, NOT hot, bath and wrap your face and ears in a moist, warm, NOT hot, towel.
  • Don't get near a hot stove or heater or use a heating pad, hot water bottle, or a hair dryer. You may burn yourself before feeling returns.
  • Frostbitten skin will become red and swollen and feel like it's on fire. You may develop blisters. Don't break the blisters. It could cause scarring and infection.
  • If your skin turns blue or gray, is very swollen, blistered or feels hard and numb even under the surface, go to a hospital as soon as possible.

+Beware of Hypothermia

When your body temperature sinks below 96°F, you have hypothermia, a serious health hazard that occurs when body temperature is lowered to much. Get medical attention immediately. Move the victim inside to a heated location and begin warming the center of the body first. If the person is unconscious, administer CPR.

Hypothermia can occur in temperatures as warm as 60°F, particularly in water or with if you are outside a long time and not dressed for the weather. Of the approximately 1,300 people the CDCP lists as being killed by hypothermia each year, most are seniors, according to the National Institute of Aging, but some are children and young adults. Everyone needs to be careful. Some medicines, problems with circulation, and certain illnesses may reduce your ability to resist hypothermia. As you age, your body becomes less efficient at letting you know when you are too cold. In addition, older people tend not to shiver effectively, one of the ways the body warms itself up. Remember these tips to help prevent hypothermia:

  • Dress in layers
  • Wrap up well when going outside in the cold.
  • Avoid breezes and drafts indoors.
  • Eat nutritious food and wear warm clothes to ward off winter chill.
  • Wear a warm hat in the winter.
  • Eat hot foods and drink warm drinks several times during the day.
  • If you live alone, ask a family member of neighbor to check on you daily or have a camera installed that a family member can view on their computer.
  • Ask your doctor if any medicine you're taking increases your risk of hypothermia. Drugs that may cause a problem include barbiturates, benzodiazepines, chlorpromazine, reserpine, and tricyclic antidepressants.

If your temperature is 96°F or less, you feel cold and sluggish, or are having trouble thinking clearly, see your doctor immediately or go to the nearest emergency room. It's better to be overly cautious than to die of a disorder that doesn't have to be deadly.

If you are trying to help someone who may have hypothermia, first call an ambulance. Then lie close to the person and cover both of you with thick blankets. The hotter you get, the more warmth you can give the other person. Don't rub the person or handle him or her roughly.