Winter-related illnesses and how to keep yourself safe & warm! - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Winter-related illnesses and how to keep yourself safe & warm!


(WVVA): Cold weather can wreak havoc on the human body. In the year 2015, COLD was the 3rd leading weather-related killer (following flooding & rip-current deaths). Also in the year 2015, 45% of Winter-storm related deaths happened in vehicles; 55% of winter-related deaths last year were also men, between the ages of 40-80 years old. 

-Hypothermia  occurs when the your body temperatures drops too low. It is essentially the opposite of having a fever. When this occurs, major organs can start shutting down if the person is not warmed back up properly and in a reasonable amount of time. Hypothermia is more likely to occur if you are wet in addition to being cold...for body heat is lost faster when that is the case.

-Frostbite is the freezing of skin and underlying tissues, when exposed to cold for too long. Extremities like fingers, the nose, toes, ears, the chin, and cheeks are most prone to frostbite. In the beginning stages of mild cases of frostbite, the skin gets very cold & red. If not re-warmed, the skin eventually can turn hard & pale, and in the final stages purple/black. There are people that lose fingers & toes because of frostbite- and if not treated properly- frostbite can lead to gangrene. 


When the wind blows across the exposed surface of our skin, it draws heat away from our bodies. When the wind picks up speed, it draws more heat away, so if your skin is exposed to the wind, your body will cool more quickly than it would have on a cold & still day.  This is why wind is usually welcomed during hot days versus cold ones- especially if we have been sweating- wind blowing across a cool, moist surface will cool our skin faster than if we are dry. Because frostbite is the literal "freezing of exposed skin" in the cold, the likelihood of frostbite increases the more wind + cold there is! 

Being cold is one thing- being cold and wet is another. Hypothermia, for instance, is much more likely to affect a cold and wet person more than a cold and dry one, most of the time.  These facts are precisely the reason why the National Weather Service will issue a “Wind Chill Warnings". Wind chill is more than “what we think the temperature feels like”- it is actually related to the rate of heat loss that humans experience!
Windchill Temperature is only defined for temperatures at or below 50 degrees F and wind speeds above 3 mph.


-BUNDLE UP! If you know you're going to be outside for a long period, pack on the layers of Winter -clothing. Scarves, gloves, hats, heavy coats, that pair of "long-johns"... all recommended in our book.

-LIMIT OUTDOOR EXPOSURE. From the outside laborers, to the kids out sledding- everyone should take frequent inside breaks to warm up. When your hands and feet start getting numb because of the cold, it is time to go in and drink some hot cocoa for a little while. Wet clothes should be removed immediately. (Tip- maybe throw them in the dryer so those kids can get back to their snow shenanigans).


-Take breaks, don't over exert yourself! Heart attacks have often happened while shoveling snow.

-Stretch before shoveling snow

-"Push" instead of "throw" snow as much as possible

-Bend at the knee (this reduces strain on the back).

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