Mid Hudson Regional Hospital Offers Winter Weather Health Safety Tips - Daily Hudson Valley News

Mid Hudson Regional Hospital Offers Winter Weather Health Safety Tips

Jan 27th, 2015 | By | Category: Featured Articles, Lead Article

MidHudson Regional Hospital of Westchester Medical Center offers health and safety tips as forecasters call for potentially dangerous conditions for the next 24 to 36 hours

Old man winter is gearing up to deliver the first substantial snowfall to our area this season. Weather forecasters are calling for a blizzard with possible record snowfall — up to two feet or more in some areas of the Hudson Valley. This means winter fun and outdoor activities for kids and winter sports enthusiasts; however, for hundreds of people each year, it also means shoveling snow, and the resulting back injuries, cold-related injuries like hypothermia and frostbite, and heart attacks. Even typical winter conditions (a little more than an inch of snowfall and temperatures that dip below 20°) cause death rates from heart attacks to triple among men 35 to 49 years old.

“While the temperature drop is not expected to be too extreme, shoveling snow will still pose dangers for many people, particularly if the right precautions aren’t taken,” said Dr. Isaac Bruck of the Emergency Department at MidHudson Regional Hospital. “Winter Storm Juno will be producing a substantial amount of heavy wet snow in some areas, which makes shoveling difficult and potentially dangerous.”

During the winter months, snow removal may be a necessity, but it must also be considered a physical activity that should be undertaken carefully. MidHudson Regional Hospital wants to remind everyone of the potential dangers associated with snow and snow removal. Here are some tips that can help alleviate the hassle and keep you, your back and your heart safe so that you can enjoy the winter wonderland around you.

If you’ve ever had a heart attack or if you have heart disease or high blood pressure, you probably don’t want to do the shoveling yourself. As is recommended when starting a new exercise program, you should consult your doctor before attempting it.

Do not work to the point of exhaustion. If you become short of breath, have difficulty breathing or feel tightness or discomfort in your chest, stop immediately.

Ask a young person in your neighborhood to shovel your walk or dig out your car. Volunteer to do it for an elderly or infirmed neighbor or relative if you are physically able.

Take it slow. Pace yourself. Like lifting weights, shoveling can raise your heart rate and blood pressure dramatically. Be sure to warm up and stretch before taking on the task.

Avoid driving, if possible. Slick and icy road surfaces can be deadly.  Staying off the road allows road crews to properly clean the road surface, which makes travel safer for everyone. If you must drive, use caution.

Additionally, anyone spending time outdoors during this storm, or at any other time during the winter, should be aware of the signs and symptoms associated with cold-related emergencies.

“If you think you may be suffering from the effects of the cold, get inside immediately, and seek medical attention if necessary,” said Dr. Bruck.

Who is most susceptible to cold related emergencies?

Very old people are at the greatest risk, as they may be unaware of their limitations. Due to limited mobility and slow ambulation, they may be forced to spend an increased amount of time exposed to the cold.

Very young people are at greater risk because their thermoregulatory system is still immature. Babies rely on adults for warmth.

Infirmed people are at greater risk because, due to illness or injury, they can’t remove themselves from the cold source. Asthma patients who forget to take their medication with them are also at greater risk.

Members of the workforce who work outside are at greater risk. This includes firefighters, police officers, EMTs, sanitation workers and road crews.

Cold weather safety tips

To protect yourself from the cold, wear several light layers with a waterproof outer layer, as well as a hat and gloves. The head is a great source of heat loss for our body (30% – 40%). Ears, noses and fingertips are extremely susceptible to frostnip and frostbite.

Avoid consuming alcoholic beverages, as, contrary to popular belief, alcohol does not warm the body; in fact, it has a reverse effect by causing vasodilatation and decreasing the body’s natural insulating properties. It also suppresses shivering and impairs judgment.

If you must be outside, limit your exposure to the cold by limiting your exposure to times when the sun is at its strongest.

Know your limitations. Don’t overexert yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Check on the elderly.

Stages of hypothermia

When body temperatures drop below normal (around 98.6°), the body reacts by shivering (numerous little muscle contractions that create energy, producing warmth). “Goose bumps” form, raising body hair to create a layer of insulation around the body. Usually this returns the body temperature to normal. Shivering is the body’s normal reaction to minor heat loss.

If the loss of body heat continues and body temperatures drop below 95°, shivering becomes more violent, muscle coordination is reduced, and movement and speech begin to slow, even though the victim may appear alert. Lips, earlobes, fingertips and toes may become blue as vessels contract to bring warmth to vital internal organs.

Left untreated, hypothermia becomes severe and can result in death when body temperatures drops below 86°. Victims experience lethargy, unconsciousness, seizures and even cardiac arrest.

Frostnip and Frostbite

Frostbite is, literally, frozen body tissue. It usually only involves the skin, but sometimes it goes deeper. It must always be handled carefully to prevent permanent tissue damage or loss. Children are at greater risk for frostbite than adults because they lose heat from their skin more rapidly and because they may be reluctant to leave their winter fun to go inside and warm up. You can prevent frostbite in cold weather by dressing in layers, staying aware of your surroundings and going indoors at regular intervals, as well as watching for frostnip: frostbite’s early warning signal. Frostbite is a true emergency, not dissimilar to a severe burn, which must be treated by a physician in an emergency department. Frostnip usually affects areas that are exposed to the cold, such as the cheeks, nose, ears, fingers and toes, leaving them white and numb. Frostnip is self-correcting when the area is re-warmed; however, left untreated, frostnip can quickly become frostbite.

About MidHudson Regional Hospital of Westchester Medical Center: From our state-of-the-art Center for Robotic Surgery to our specialized Total Joint Rehabilitation Unit, MidHudson Regional Hospital is home to the latest healing techniques and technology in the Hudson Valley. Advanced clinical protocols are seamlessly combined with mission driven compassionate care delivered by the area’s top healthcare team. Operating the region’s only Level 2 Trauma Center, MidHudson Regional Hospital is a destination hospital for patients with traumatic injuries that require care beyond what is routinely provided by their local community hospital. Whether it’s a life-threatening injury or a few stitches, you can turn to the top-notch staff at our recently expanded Emergency Care Center for fast and efficient treatment. The patient-centered Redl Center for Cancer Care offers people living with cancer and their families everything they need to receive care in one convenient and newly renovated location. From prevention, to education and treatment, the physicians, health care staff, and volunteers at MidHudson Regional Hospital have a reputation as the region’s most innovative health care delivery system. We are privileged to serve the Hudson Valley for our next 100 years!

MidHudson Regional Hospital of Westchester Medical Center
241 North Road
Poughkeepsie, NY  12601

westchestermedicalcenter.org/MHRH

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