The Lowdown on Low Temperatures

Winter is a bitter time of year that makes frostbite, hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning a threat to anyone braving the outside elements. While these emergencies can be potentially life threatening, proper precautionary and preventative measures can help you avoid these conditions altogether.

Five Star Urgent Care Regional Medical Director Dr. LouAnne Giangreco explains these cold weather health hazards in her latest appearance on WSYR’s Bridge Street morning show in Syracuse.

Frostbite occurs when the tissues in your body freeze due to the low temperatures. Commonly, your skin will become numb, change tone to a grayish yellow color, and feel slightly firm or waxy. Areas affected by frostbite should be reviewed by a medical professional and should not be rubbed, heated by any means that could potentially evoke a burn, or walked on. Re-warming should only be done with body heat or slightly warm water.

Hypothermia occurs when a person’s internal body temperature falls below 95 degrees Farenheit. Shivering, exhaustion, memory loss and drowsiness are the common symptoms. Until emergency medical attention arrives, the affected person should be re-warmed starting at the center of their body. Electric blankets or skin-to-skin contact provide a good source of safe heat for rewarming.

Carbon monoxide poising can result from attempting to heat the home through alternative measures such as generators, lanterns, stoves, gas ranges or through burning wood and charcoal. The fumes produced are hazardous to your health, especially when in an enclosed space. Installing a carbon monoxide detector can help prevent this type of poisoning. Be mindful of headaches, dizziness, weakness, chest pain, confusion, nausea and vomiting. These symptoms can easily be mistaken for winter time illnesses, like the flu.

If you suspect that you or someone in your care has early signs of frostbite, you may seek medical attention at the nearest Five Star Urgent Care location. If hypothermia or carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected, these medical emergencies require the attention and resources provided by the nearest hospital emergency department.