Steve Shelton, MD
Palmetto Health Emergency Management
In South Carolina, we typically don’t have extremely cold weather. However, cold weather has the potential to be dangerous, so it’s important to know what to do when the freezing temperatures decide to creep up on us. Steve Shelton, MD, Palmetto Health’s medical director of Emergency Management, shares tips on how to brave the cold:
- Don’t go outside unless you absolutely have to.
- Stay well nourished – eat frequently, stay hydrated and avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages.
- Wear loose, multilayered clothing.
- If you get wet, change into dry clothing immediately.
- If you have to spend an extended period of time outside, bring a buddy with you. This way you can monitor each other and make sure you are both safe.
Extreme temperatures can cause extreme things to happen to the body, such as hypothermia. The elderly, very young, people who work outside and the homeless are at high risk for hypothermia. Here are some of the symptoms to look out for:
- Intense shivering. If this shivering stops, you are in a true emergency.
- More exhausted than usual.
- Slurred speech.
- Memory loss.
- “Fumbly fingers,” as Dr. Shelton calls it. Things you can normally do with your fingers and hands tend to become much harder.
If you think that you or someone you know is experiencing hypothermia, find somewhere warm indoors, warm the core (abdomen, neck and chest) first and seek medical attention.
When trying to warm your home, Dr. Shelton said it’s important to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. “Carbon monoxide is a tasteless, odorless and colorless gas that you can be exposed to. It replaces the oxygen in your blood and can create a very life-threatening situation,” Dr. Shelton said. Here are some tips to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Never use charcoal fire or a charcoal grill as a source of heat indoors.
- If you use any type of gas heater indoors, make sure there is plenty of ventilation.
- Make sure any generators or engines have been serviced regularly.
- Turn off any heaters when you are not able to monitor them, specifically when you go to sleep.
Some symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
Remember to stay safe this winter. If you or someone you know experiences any of the symptoms mentioned above, seek medical attention immediately.
Palmetto Health offers several same-day care options for minor illnesses such as UTIs. To learn more, visit PalmettoHealth.org/SameDayCare.