For Immediate Release
January 7, 2010

KDHE Office of Communications
communications@kdheks.gov, 785-296-0461

KDHE provides weather-related health and safety tips

With the temperatures in Kansas dropping below freezing and wind chills at levels unseen in quite some time, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) wants to take this opportunity to provide tips to make sure you have a safe and healthy winter.

"We want everyone to be safe this season," Roderick Bremby, KDHE Secretary said. "Please remember to check on your family members or neighbors who may be at risk from the cold weather - especially those who are young children, older adults and the chronically ill. And, if you are outside in these conditions, please take precautions to prevent yourself from frostbite or other injuries."

If you are working outdoors, travelling or enjoying winter sports, take the following precautions:

"Serious health problems can result from prolonged exposure to the cold and Kansans need to be aware of the most common cold weather-related problems, frostbite and hypothermia," said Dr. Jason Eberhart-Phillips, State Health Officer and Director of Health at KDHE. "People experiencing symptoms of hypothermia or frostbite need to seek medical care."

Warnings signs of hypothermia are shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness. Seek medical attention quickly.

Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. Frostbite can permanently damage the body, and severe cases can lead to amputation. The risk of frostbite is increased in people with reduced blood circulation and among people who are not dressed properly for extremely cold temperatures.

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. A victim is often unaware of frostbite until someone else points it out because the frozen tissues are numb. If you detect symptoms of frostbite, seek medical care.

If there is frostbite but no sign of hypothermia and immediate medical care is not available, proceed as follows:

Be prepared for weather-related emergencies, including power outages.

Protect you and your family against Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning.

Fireplaces, wood stoves and portable heaters and generators are often used when power outages occur. These and other appliances produce carbon monoxide, which can be fatal if people are exposed to high levels even for a brief time. CO cannot be seen or smelled and can kill in minutes. Tips to avoid CO poisoning include:

Carefully monitor household members for signs of CO poisoning. Exposure to CO can cause loss of consciousness and death. The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. People who are sleeping or who have been drinking alcohol can die from CO poisoning before ever having symptoms.

Anyone who suspects symptoms of CO poisoning should go outside and seek fresh air immediately. If a person has collapsed or is not breathing, call 9-1-1 for emergency medical assistance immediately from a safe location.

Make sure your car is winterized.

Learn safety rules to follow in case you become stranded in your car.

Visit www.kdheks.gov for more winter weather tips.