Cold Weather Can Lead To Health Emergencies

Winter is here. If you love it or hate it you need to be prepared for this cold. People exposed to cold environments could be at risk for cold stress. NY Connects wants you to know what to do and where to call if you have a cold emergency or need.

Hypothermia is a condition that can affect you if you have prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. Early symptoms are shivering, fatigue, loss of coordination, confusion or disorientation. When you have been out too long in the cold, late symptoms of hypothermia can include blue/grey skin color/tone, slow breathing, dilated pupils and no shivering anymore. Late symptoms require emergency first aid – call 911.

Frostbite is an injury to a part of the body that has become frozen. This typically affects the fingers, toes, tip of the nose, ears and even the chin. The symptoms of frost bite can include numbness, aching, tingling or stinging sensation, blueish or pale waxy looking skin. I can imagine several readers with children or grandchildren who love to play outside or people who shovel or plow snow have had many of these symptoms. The best care or first aid for frostbite is to get into the warm house or shelter as soon as possible. Slowly re-warm the area. Do not massage the frostbitten area because damage can occur. Do not re-warm using a heating pad, fireplace or radiator. Gently re-warm the area using body heat. Holding the area gently for body heat or using warm – not hot – water to immerse the affected area. Don’t walk around on feet/toes that have been frostbitten. Keep track of people out in these cold conditions. Call children or grandchildren in for a warm-up break or have your spouse or adult children come in for a cup of coffee to warm up if they have been out for too long in cold conditions. Wear the right clothing. Appropriate attire for severe cold weather is to dress in layers. Several loose layers of clothing act as insulation keeping your body heat close to you. Protect the hands/fingers, feet/toes, face including ears/chin and nose when out in the cold. Everyone knows most of your body heat goes off the top of your head – so wear a hat to reduce the body heat lost from your head. Be prepared and carry extra/change of clothes in case you need them.

If you need assistance with energy costs for heating your home, you can call NY Connects for information about programs that can help you with energy costs.

For many elderly people living alone in the community winter is especially hard because they may not be able to shovel snow or get out in bad weather. Check on your neighbors – see if they need something from the store that you are willing to pick up for them. Shoveling can be a big job here in Western New York – consider running the shovel up the walk and clearing the steps of your neighbors who can’t get out. A good deed is never overlooked. Seniors who may need temporary assistance such as Meals on Wheels during the bad weather can call NY Connects to set this service up for you.

CARTs transportation services can help people get around the county for shopping or medical appointments – call NY Connects for more information that can help for cold-weather driving needs. The Chautauqua County Personal Monitoring program can assist you in getting a personal emergency alarm service for the winter months so that if something does happen you have a way to call for help. The Red Cross warns people about resorting to alternate measures for getting their home heated. Do not use the stove or oven to heat your home ever. Do not leave fires in fireplaces unattended. Make sure you have a fire screen of glass or metal in front of an open fire. Please use caution when using space heaters. Place it on a level surface that is itself nonflammable and keep objects away from it including children, pets and everything from coming in contact with it.

As the days are getting shorter with less daylight hours, we hear the term winter blues or cabin fever. Both are moods that can be a problem. Reduced sunlight can affect your body’s internal clock or circadian rhythm -this can leave you feeling sad or depressed. You can try to do activities that bring you joy such as going out with friends, getting out in the community, taking advantage of a break in the weather to get outside and breathe, go to watch or participate in ice skating, going out with a friend/family for a meal. These types of activities keep us engaged and are pleasurable. Call NY Connects for information about senior clubs in your area that you could join. Exercise is another way to engage in an activity that is good for your body. Tai Chi and walking are fantastic ways to engage your winter self in an indoor activity. If you are feeling blue this winter and it lasts for a couple weeks, please talk to your health care provider. Check your local paper calendar of events for interesting happenings in your area that can combat cabin fever or winter blues. If a sad or depressed mood continues for more than a couple weeks-remember to talk to your health care professional. NY Connects can offer other resources for those in need of ideas or support services.

NY Connects is your one stop call for information about services available to you in Chautauqua County. Call with your questions and we will provide you with local services and resources in an effort to meet your needs. You can reach NY Connects by phone: Jamestown areas: 661-7582, Dunkirk/Fredonia areas: 363-4582 and Mayville areas/mid-county 753-4582, fax 753-4844,

You can come and see us at 7 N. Erie St, Mayville. NY Connects is brought to you in cooperation from the Chautauqua County Office for the Aging and the Chautauqua County Department of Social Services.