Syracuse UniversityHealth Services

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Winter Health

Take precautions in Syracuse when winter weather arrives to protect your health and safety!

  • Dress to stay warm and dry, include: a hat, a scarf or knit mask to cover face and mouth, sleeves that are snug at the wrist, mittens (they are warmer than gloves), water-resistant coat and shoes, several layers of loose-fitting clothing.
  • Do not ignore shivering. It's an important first sign that the body is losing heat. Persistent shivering is a signal to return indoors.
  • Avoid ice. Take the time to carefully walk around icy ground. Choose footwear that will enable you to “get a grip.”
  • Be cautious about travel. Before driving, check for weather advisories. Avoid traveling on ice-covered roads if at all possible. If you must travel, try to travel with a friend, and take a cell phone with you.
  • Being under the influence of alcohol increases the risk of frostbite and hypothermia. 

Frostbite

Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes.

Warning Signs

At the first signs of redness or pain in any skin area, get out of the cold or protect any exposed skin—frostbite may be beginning. Any of the following signs may indicate frostbite:

  • a white or grayish-yellow skin area
  • skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
  • numbness

Note: A victim is often unaware of frostbite until someone else points it out because the frozen tissues are numb. If you suspect frostbite, SEEK MEDICAL CARE as soon as possible, first aid measures include:

  • Get into a warm room as soon as possible.
  • Unless absolutely necessary, do not walk on frostbitten feet or toes—this increases the damage.
  • Immerse the affected area in warm—not hot—water (the temperature should be comfortable to the touch for unaffected parts of the body).
  • Or, warm the affected area using body heat. For example, the heat of an armpit can be used to warm frostbitten fingers.
  • Do not rub the frostbitten area with snow or massage it at all. This can cause more damage.
  • Don't use a heating pad, heat lamp, or the heat of a stove, fireplace, or radiator for warming. Affected areas are numb and can be easily burned.

Hypothermia

When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. Body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well. Hypothermia occurs most commonly at very cold temperatures, but can occur even at cool temperatures (above 40°F) if a person becomes chilled from rain, sweat, or submersion in cold water.

Warning Signs

  • shivering/exhaustion
  • confusion/fumbling hands
  • memory loss/slurred speech
  • Drowsiness

What should I do if I see someone with warning signs of hypothermia?

Get medical attention immediately and begin warming the person, as follows:

  • Get the victim into a warm room or shelter.
  • If the victim has on any wet clothing, remove it.
  • Warm the center of the body first—chest, neck, and head, using an electric blanket or use skin-to-skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing, towels, or sheets.
  • Warm beverages can help increase the body temperature, but do NOT give alcoholic beverages. Do not try to give beverages to an unconscious person.
  • After body temperature has increased, keep the person dry and wrapped in a warm blanket, including the head and neck.
  • Call SU Ambulance:  315-443-4299 

Tips for Shoveling Snow:

  • Warm up your body by doing a few stretches to limber your muscles.
  • Stop if you experience:  heavy sweating, shortness of breath, or pain anywhere.
  • Choose appropriate clothing, remember gloves, hat and boots that will grip slippery surfaces.
  • It is best to dress in layers then you can either add or take off a layer. The clothes should be able to breathe and be made of natural fibers such as wool or cotton.
  • Use a smaller shovel. This will force you to have a lighter load.
  • Take frequent breaks, even if only for a couple of minutes.
  • Push the snow instead of lifting.
  • If the snow is very deep just take off a little at a time.
  • Drink fluids to stay hydrated.
  • Avoid twisting and straining your back and wrists.