East Tennessee currently is experiencing lower than normal temperatures, and experts say more extreme cold could be on its way this winter. If precautions aren’t taken, dropping temperatures can be dangerous, especially to vulnerable populations such as the elderly or young children.
“As temperatures continue to drop this week and through the winter season, we are encouraging people to review the safety tips for extreme cold,” said Dennis Rowe, director of operations for Priority Ambulance in East Tennessee. “Taking preventative action is the best way to deal with frigid weather. Minimize your outside exposure and prepare for emergencies, such as power or heating outages.”
Priority Ambulance encourages East Tennesseans to prepare a home emergency kit for winter weather, which would include:
- Alternate heat sources, includes dry firewood for fireplace and kerosene or space heater with automatic shut-off switch.
- First-aid kit
- Flashlight or battery-powered lantern
- Battery-powered radio
- Battery-powered clock or watch
- Extra batteries
- Special needs items (diapers, hearing aid batteries)
When winter weather is forecast, check the supplies in your kit. If you plan to use a kerosene or space heater as a secondary heat source, install a carbon monoxide detector in the home. Make sure to also keep blankets, first-aid kit, booster cables and a tool kit in your vehicle for unexpected emergencies.
When temperatures are dangerously low, limit time outdoors. When outside, it is important to dress warmly in multiple layers and stay dry. Remove layers before you begin to sweat. Do not ignore shivering, an important first sign of the body losing heat. Shivering is an indicator to move indoors.
Cold weather puts extra strain on the heart during exertion. If you have heart disease or high blood pressure, be extra cautious when performing strenuous work outdoors, such as shoveling snow. If the activity is necessary, dress warmly and work slowly. The body already is expending energy to stay warm.
The elderly and very young are the most susceptible populations for cold weather-related injuries and illnesses. With age, the body becomes less sensitive to temperature change and might not realize the danger. Seniors should install a thermostat and check regularly to ensure house temperatures are at a safe level. Infants should never sleep in a cold room; an infant cannot generate enough heat through shivering. In an emergency, hold an infant and keep the baby warm with your body heat.
Serious health problems can result from exposure to cold, including hypothermia and frostbite. The symptoms of hypothermia, or dangerously low body temperature, in adults are shivering, exhaustion, confusion, memory loss or drowsiness. The signs of danger for infants are bright red, cold skin and very low energy. If you suspect hypothermia, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95 degrees, call 9-1-1.
Frostbite most often affects areas of the body that are exposed to the elements, including the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes. Skin will appear white, gray or yellow, feel unusually firm or waxy and be numb. If these symptoms are present, seek medical attention immediately.
About Priority Ambulance
Based in Knoxville, Tenn., Priority Ambulance provides the highest level of clinical excellence in emergency and nonemergency medical care to the communities it serves. Throughout its national service area, more than 375 highly trained paramedics, EMTs and telecommunicators staff state-of-the-art ambulances with the latest medical equipment and technology.
Priority Ambulance provides emergency and nonemergency medical transport options in East Tennessee to Knox, Loudon and Blount counties. Priority Ambulance also operates in Utica, N.Y., as Kunkel Ambulance and in Central Indiana as Seals Ambulance. Operating as Shoals Ambulance in Alabama, the company serves Lauderdale County, the City of Florence, the City of Muscles Shoals and Birmingham in Alabama.