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Preventing Cold Weather Illnesses
January 24, 2014

Eyewitness News Reporter Darrah Wilcox While preventing some cold-weather related illnesses seems like common sense, it never hurts to have a little refresher on how dangerous, even deadly, they can be.

Any way you describe it, polar vortex or a polar plunge, January has been unbearably cold for some of us! The frigid temperatures can also be downright dangerous.

One of the most common cold-weather illness is hypothermia, which happens when your body starts losing heat after than it can produce it, causing abnormally low body temperature. Persistent shivering can be the first sign, but confusion and slurred speech are also red flags.

Cabell County EMS Director Gordon Merry is no stranger to the elements. He said quick response is crucial when dealing with hypothermia.

"It's something that needs to be dealt with immediately," he said. "My advice is get them in where they're warm, call 911."

Frostbite causes loss of feeling and color in commonly exposed places.

"Your fingers, your toes and your face are the ones which will get frostbite first normally, so you need to dress in layers and protect those."

Redness or pain in any skin area can be first warning sings

"Obviously, your fingers start getting numb," Merry said. "They get red, they get cold to the touch."

More developed signs are a white or grayish-yellow skin area, skin that feels unusually firm or waxy

We've seen the wind chill numbers dip way below zero several times this winter. That can trigger these illnesses even faster, so if you HAVE to go out in the arctic temps, maybe to shovel snow, use moderation.

"Come in, take breaks," Merry said. "If you start feeling tired, get inside where it's warm and take a break. Don't continue shoveling the snow. You may have a heart attack, the elements may get you."

You may want to consider temporary hibernation mode.

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