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Emergency physician offers top tips in battling cold weather

News Center | January 27, 2014

Cold weatherLowcountry residents may need to hone up on their cold weather knowledge to battle unseasonably cold weather rolling in.

Sarah Pack

With cold temperatures sweeping through the Lowcountry, there are common sense tips to keep in mind.

It’s important during times of cold weather to know the signs of hypothermia or dangerously low body temperature. People most vulnerable to getting it include those who are:  Very old or very young,  chronically ill - especially who have heart or blood flow problems, malnourished, overly tired and/or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, according to Medline Plus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

The site lists several common causes including: Being outside without enough protective clothing in winter, wearing wet clothing in windy or cold weather, heavy exertion, not drinking enough fluids or not eating enough in cold weather.

As people develop hypothermia, they slowly lose the ability to think and move. They may be unaware that they need emergency treatment. Other symptoms may include: Drowsiness, weakness and loss of coordination, pale and cold skin, confusion, uncontrollable shivering (although at extremely low body temperatures, shivering may stop) and slowed breathing or heart rate. If any symptoms of hypothermia are present, especially confusion or changes in mental status, it’s important to immediately call 911.

Here are some cold weather tips from Keith T. Borg, M.D., director of the MUSC’s Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine.

  • Plan ahead for travel and the weather.  
  •  Make sure you stay warm not just when you are home but out and about or if you were to get stuck in travel.  
  • Exposed skin, heads and hands can get cold quickly.  Dig out that hat, mittens and scarf your grandmother got you even if they are not attractive.
  • Stay dry.  Wet clothes cause heat loss considerably faster than dry insulating clothes.
  • Warm beats fashionable.
  • Plan ahead for pets as well. Bring pets inside. If you're cold, they're cold.
  • Check in with elderly neighbors and families with young children and make sure they are OK and have a plan to get through the weather.  
  • Babies and the elderly are more at risk than others for changes in body temperature for multiple reasons.
  • Know alternate travel routes in Charleston to avoid bridges in case of shut down.  
  • Have plenty of hot cocoa and friends to visit and celebrate with.

If you have questions concerning MUSC weather closings, call 792-MUSC or go to MUSC Risk Management.


Related Stories >>

Survival guide to stay safe in the frigid cold (USA Today)


Resources >>


MUSC Risk Management website

Hypothermia resource: NIH


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