Avoid Cold Emergencies

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“Cold and frigid today…..maybe 60 degrees on Thursday; it seems we have been having these fluctuations of temperatures throughout the fall and the beginning of winter,” stated Ocean County Freeholder Deputy Director Gerry P. Little, Liaison to the Ocean County board of Health.  “Since winter is here, we do know that we will get more frigid weather and it is important to be aware of the dangers of prolonged exposure to cold.  We live in an area where many people are outside for extended periods of time such as school children waiting for their school bus, construction workers working on exteriors of homes or buildings and even the crews that are responsible for clearing streets and sidewalks of snow and ice.”


Daniel Regenye, Ocean County Health Department (OCHD) Public Health Coordinator, said, “The most common cold-related emergencies are hypothermia and frostbite.  When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster that it can be produced.   Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up your body’s stored energy resulting in hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature, which if too low, affects the brain making the person unable to think clearly or move well.  A person may not know it is happening and won’t be able to do anything about it.  Hypothermia is most likely to occur at very cold temperatures, but can occur even at cool temperatures if a person becomes chilled from rain or is submerged in cold water.  Victims of hypothermia are often elderly people, babies sleeping in cold bedrooms, people who remain outdoors for long periods and people who drink alcohol or use illicit drugs.  Some symptoms of hypothermia are:”

In adults:

  • Shivering, exhaustion
  • Confusion, fumbling hands
  • Memory loss, slurred speech
  • Drowsiness

In infants:

  • Bright red, cold skin
  • Very low energy


If you notice any of these signs, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95 degrees,  GET MEDICAL ATTENTION IMMEDIATELY.  If you cannot get medical care, start warming the person by:

  • Get the person into a warm room.
  • Remove any wet clothing.
  • Warm the center of the body first – chest, neck, head and groin. Use skin-to skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing, towels or sheets.
  • Warm beverages can help but do not give alcoholic beverages. Do not give beverages to someone unconscious.
  • After body temperature has increased, keep the person dry and wrapped in warm layers and get medical attention as soon as possible.


A person with severe hypothermia may be unconscious and may not seem to have a pulse or to be breathing.  Handle the victim gently and get emergency assistance immediately.  Even if the person appears dead, CPR should be provided and should continue while victim is being warmed or until the victim responds or medical aid becomes available.


Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing and causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas.  It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, and fingers or toes and can permanently damage the body and severe cases can lead to amputation.   People need to dress properly for extremely cold temperatures.

The following signs may indicate frostbite:

  • A white or grayish yellow skin area
  • Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
  • Numbness


If you detect symptoms of frostbite, seek medical care. If a person also shows signs of hypothermia, this requires emergency medical assistance.


If a person has signs of frostbite but no hypothermia, proceed as follows:

  • Get into a warm area.
  • Unless necessary, do not walk on frostbitten feet or toes.
  • You can warm the affected area using body heat.
  • Do not rub the frostbitten area with snow or massage it at all.
  • Do not use heating pad, heat lamp, or the heat of a stove, fireplace or radiator for warming. Affected areas are numb and can be easily burned.


Regenye added, “Preventive action is your best defense against having to deal with extreme cold-weather conditions.  Prepare your home and car in advance for winter emergencies and observe safety precautions during times of extremely cold weather.”


Visit the Ocean County Health Department website at www.ochd.org or follow the Health Department on Twitter@OCpublichealth or like us on Facebook.