NC DHHS’ Division of Public Health is reminding residents and visitors to use caution during extreme weather conditions and recovery efforts. Whether working or playing in the snow and ice, there are numerous hazards that should be taken into consideration - and safety should be the top concern.
During a power outage, never use generators, grills, or other gasoline-propane, or charcoal-burning devices inside your home, garage, or carport or near doors, windows or vents. These devices produce carbon monoxide - an odorless, colorless gas that can cause death.
Each year in the United States, 400 people die, 20,000 are evaluated in emergency departments, and 4,000 are hospitalized due to carbon monoxide poisoning. The initial symptoms of CO poisoning resemble the flu and include headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, and dizziness.
If you are experiencing symptoms, get fresh air immediately. Open windows and doors for ventilation, turn off any combustible appliances and leave the house. Call 911 or have someone take you to a hospital emergency room and tell the physician you suspect CO poisoning.
Additional cold-weather threats people should protect themselves from are hypothermia and frostbite. To protect yourself, wear layers of clothing and a hat, which help to keep in body heat. Limit your time outdoors and remove any wet clothing immediately. Watch for signs of hypothermia and frostbite among elderly adults, babies, people drinking alcohol, and others at risk. Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect someone has hypothermia or frostbite.
Some signs of hypothermia in adults include: shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness. In infants, watch for bright red, cold skin and/or very low energy.
If you see someone who is exhibiting signs of hypothermia:
- Get the victim into a warm room or shelter.
- Remove any wet clothing from the victim.
- Warm the center of the body first - chest, neck, head, and groin - using an electric blanket, if available. 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.
- Get medical attention as soon as possible.
A victim is often unaware of frostbite until someone else points it out because the frozen tissues are numb. 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
Finally, if your home is damaged, stay with friends, family or in a shelter. Again, safety should be the top concern.
For additional winter-weather information: http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/index.asp
For more information on CO dangers: http://epi.publichealth.nc.gov/oee/a_z/co.html