Ask A Doc: Extreme Cold Weather

by Marita Michelin, MD

Q:Doc, what can I do to protect myself in the extreme cold?

A:When the temperatures fall well below freezing, there are many precautions you can take to protect yourself. Before you go outside make sure all your extremities are covered. Wear layers, including gloves, hats and scarves. If you have to be outside, limit how long you are exposed to the elements. Avoid overexertion and sweating under your layers as this can hasten hypothermia.

Exposure to weather this cold could lead to hypothermia or frostbite in less then 30 minutes. Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, confusion, bright red and cold skin and loss of energy. Frostbite symptoms include: white or grayish yellow skin, skin that feels usually firm or waxy and numbness that doesn’t resolve.

Take extra care to cover your children especially well in additional layers, as young children and infants have a harder time regulating body temperature and due to their small size can lose body heat more quickly. They also often can’t warn parents of their symptoms.

Don’t forget about your pets as well. They should be brought in from the outside when conditions are this harsh.

Marita Michelin, MD is chief of emergency medicine at Newark-Wayne Community Hospital