Take Care in Cold Weather

Posted on 1/16/2009 8:31:48 AM

Department of Health Urges Pennsylvanians to Preprare for Dangerously Cold Weather

HARRISBURG – A surge of arctic air in Pennsylvania will bring hazardous wind chills that could lead to serious health problems, the Health Department warned yesterday.

Temperatures across Pennsylvania are expected to range from the single digits to minus 10 tomorrow, with wind chills forecasted to drop to 5 to 30 below zero.

“Taking preventive action can help you reduce the risk of hypothermia, which is a very real threat in extreme cold-weather conditions. When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up your body’s stored energy and result in hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. Hypothermia is particularly dangerous because it slows the functions of many vital organs, including the brain, and you may not realize it is happening.”

Stay alert for signs of hypothermia. These include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion. If symptoms of hypothermia are detected, warm the victim up immediately and get medical help as soon as possible.

During periods of extreme cold, the Pennsylvania Department of Health recommends that you:

• Make outdoor trips as brief as possible.

• Dress warmly in several layers of loose-fitting clothing.

• Cover your mouth and face with a scarf or knit mask to protect your lungs from extremely cold air.

• Keep dry and change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat.

• Avoid exertion as cold weather puts an extra strain on the heart.

• Eating a well-balanced meal will help you stay warmer. Do not drink alcoholic or caffeinated beverages when going outdoors as they cause your body to lose heat more rapidly.

• Watch for signs of frostbite. These consist of loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, and the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately. Frostbite can occur in as little as fifteen minutes in the right conditions.

• Remain in your vehicle if you become stranded.  Keep warm by wrapping your entire body in extra clothing or blankets. Move your arms and legs while sitting to improve circulation and stay warmer.


To learn more about the Department of Health and its services, visit Pennsylvania Department of Health or call 1-877-PA HEALTH.