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How to protect yourself from the cold

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Posted: Thursday, January 17, 2013 12:00 am

Recent cold weather is expected to continue over the next week, especially overnight. Residents of San Joaquin County should take extra precautions to protect themselves, as well as their pets and livestock, against the cold, said San Joaquin County Health Officer Dr. Karen Faust.

Try the following tips to battle the cold:

  • Keep your home heated and have extra blankets on hand.
  • Do not bring outdoor heating devices indoors (like barbecues or other cooking elements). They can produce deadly carbon monoxide.
  • If you live alone, maintain contact with friends and family.
  • When outside, remember to wear multiple layers of warm clothing. Protect your face and hands with a scarf and gloves.
  • Avoid heavy exertion in the cold. If you must work outdoors, dress warmly and work at a slower pace.
  • When traveling, check road conditions and let others know your route and estimated arrival time. Have extra blankets, water and food in your vehicle.
  • Move family pets indoors or to an enclosure out of the elements. Protect livestock by giving them access to unfrozen water.
  • Insulate pipes and allow faucets to drip slowly to avoid freezing.

What about staying healthy in the cold?

The most common health problems in cold weather are frostbite and hypothermia, said Faust.

Frostbite is the loss of feeling or color in areas of the body like the nose, ears, fingers and toes. It can result in permanent damage to the body.

Hypothermia occurs when the body is exposed to very cold temperatures and begins to lose heat.

In adults it can appear as shivering, confusion, memory loss, fumbling of hands, numbness or slurred speech.

Children may show signs of low energy and have cold skin that appears red. If these symptoms appear, check their temperature. Anything lower than 95 degrees Fahrenheit needs immediate medical attention.

Other common symptoms of cold-related health problems to be aware of include stiff muscles, slowed breathing, dizziness, puffy face and waxy or discolored skin.

If you need emergency medical attention, call your physician or 911 immediately.

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