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ER departments prepared for more patients as bitter cold bites Upstate

STAFF REPORTS
Published on Monday, January 6, 2014

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Hypothermia and frostbite can set in within minutes with the extreme cold forecast. 

Hypothermia and frostbite can set in within minutes with the extreme cold forecast. 

The extreme temperatures that will envelope the Upstate this week have hospital emergency departments on alert for an increase in the number of patients.

The overnight is low is forecast to be 8 degrees, which would break the record of 9 degrees set in 1904, according to the National Weather Service.

Wind chill values are expected to be dangerously low, prompting forecasters to issue a wind chill advisory, in effect from 6 p.m. Monday until noon on Tuesday.

Physicians stress the importance of staying warm to stay alive. Hypothermia and frostbite can set in within minutes with the extreme cold forecast. Symptoms like shivering, confusion, mumbling and drowsiness are all signs of hypothermia. That happens when your body temperature drops below 95 degrees.

“One thing we always recommend is really staying away from alcohol as well when it's cold because it may make you feel warm and you don't protect yourself against the cold as much. We do see people that are intoxicated then end up hypothermic,” said Dr. Julian Dial of the Bon Secours St. Francis Health System Emergency Department.

Doctors suggest dressing in layers to stay warm and covering as much skin as possible will help prevent frostbite. Health professionals are especially concerned about those who are homeless and remain outside even in the coldest temperatures.

Children and the elderly need the most attention. Make sure they stay warm and dry and if your kids come home with wet clothing, remove it fast. If you have older neighbors, try doing outdoor chores for them if they need it or let it wait until it gets warmer. 

Doctors say the best way to warm up extremely cold hands or feet is to start with lukewarm water and gradually increase the temperature.

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