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What Is Hypothermia and What Should You Do About It

Dress appropriately to prevent hypothermia.


Whether you’ve spent too much time dashing through the snow or you are stranded in your car during a freak storm, knowing how to prevent and treat hypothermia is essential.

What Causes Hypothermia

You may be surprised to learn that hypothermia isn’t just a cold weather condition. Even in the summer, if you are in the water for too long (in a boating accident or scuba diving, for example) you can become hypothermic. In fact, cold water, even if the outside air is warm, can cause you to become hypothermic faster than being on land.

Alcohol increases the risk of hypothermia because it increases the body’s blood flow to the skin and extremities, causing a person to lose heat faster, even though they may feel warm.

Symptoms of Hypothermia

Any time your core body temperature gets below 95 degrees F, you are considered hypothermic. Early symptoms include shivering, confusion and hypoglycemia. As it worsens, the victim may start to shiver more violently, and show a lack of muscle coordination. Movements may appear slow and labored and the victim may stumble around. Pale skin along with blue lips, fingers, ears and toes are other symptoms to watch for.

As hypothermia becomes more severe, heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure decrease. The person affected will have trouble speaking and thinking, may experience amnesia and will seem to get even more clumsy with an inability to use their hands.

In infants, hypothermia can be recognized by bright red, cold skin as well as very low energy.

Hypothermia Treatment

As soon as you start to see symptoms of hypothermia, you should take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95 degrees, seek medical help immediately. If you cannot get medical help, you should begin the rewarming process on your own, following these steps:

1. Get the victim to shelter or into a warm room.

2. Remove wet clothing if applicable.

3. Begin warming the core (chest, head, neck, groin) with an electric blanket if possible. Another option is skin to skin contact under a loose covering – blankets, towels, etc.

4. If the patient is conscious, give them a warm beverage to warm them from the inside out. Do not give them any type of alcohol.

5. Even as the body’s temperature increases, the patient should be kept covered, including the head and neck. Medical attention should be a priority as soon as possible.

If a person seems to be unconscious, or even dead, you should still attempt CPR. Keep in mind, as the body gets colder it will begin to shut down to conserve energy. Proceed with rewarming the victim while CPR is being provided and seek medical help as soon as possible. It may be possible to resuscitate the victim.

Preventing Hypothermia

Hypothermia can be prevented by wearing weather-appropriate clothing and avoiding alcohol if you are going to be outdoors in the cold or out on your boat for the day. Even in warm weather, have a way to cover up if you get chilled swimming in cold water.

A hat, scarf and mittens in cold weather will help prevent heat loss from your body. You should also prevent sweating by not overexerting yourself. Sweaty clothing in cold weather will cause you to lose body heat faster. Staying dry is essential.

Wear loose-fitting layers so you can add or remove clothing as necessary to stay comfortable. Wind and water repellant outer layers, combined with wool, silk or polypropylene inner layers will do the best job of holding in body heat.

Small children should have one more layer than adults and should come inside often to warm themselves. Limit their time outdoors when it is very cold.

Make sure your car is stocked with your emergency kit, including several blankets, extra clothing, first aid kit, emergency food and water, and a cell phone. If you become stranded, run the car for 10 minutes out of every hour, making sure the windows are cracked slightly. Be sure the exhaust pipe isn’t covered in snow.

And finally, if someone you know needs help keeping their home warm in the winter, contact your public health office or social services agency to see what aid is available to help them stay warm and safe in the cold winter months. Even bringing them some extra blankets and checking in on them periodically can save a life.

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Preparing for Disasters

trauma kit

What kind of disasters do you prepare for? Are you concerned about weather related disasters? Do you worry about medical emergencies? Maybe you’re just concerned that your car will break down in the middle of nowhere.

Whatever type of emergency you are concerned about, there are a few basic ways to prepare that will help you, no matter what you end up dealing with. Once you have the basics, you can customize your preparations to fit the events that concerns you most.

First and foremost, everyone should have a first aid kit and know how to use it. It’s also a great idea to take a class in first aid and CPR. These steps alone will help you feel more in control of an emergency situation.

Second, each person in your family should have their own survival kit in case there is a sudden emergency where ever they may be.

Thirdly, you should have an emergency kit in your car, because disasters don’t just happen when you are at home.

If you are a pet owner, you should also have a pet survival kit.

And finally, you should have a plan. Develop a plan for handling a variety of scenarios and practice often with your family. For example, you should practice fire drills on a regular basis, but you should also practice what you would do if the power went out for a prolonged period of time.

The more you practice, the more you and your family will feel confident to handle various situations.

Once you have these basics covered, evaluate your preparedness concerns and decide where you may be lacking. The basics will give you a sense of security while you enhance areas that may need more work.

A strong foundation in disaster preparedness will help eliminate fear because you will feel like you have a degree of control. When things are under control, you will feel more calm so you can make better decisions instead of simply reacting in panic.

Do you have these basics? What do you prepare for?

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Tornado Readiness


What was supposed to be a magical Christmas turned into a nightmare for many folks who were hit by one of the 40 tornadoes that wreaked havoc across the southern part of the country, leaving six people dead.

It is just another sad lesson, showing us that disasters can strike at any time without care of what’s convenient or if it is a special day for your family. Typically, “tornado season” is during the spring and summer months, so who would expect a string of tornadoes to strike in late December?

Preparedness is essential, no matter the season. Do you know what to do during a tornado?

As soon as you get a tornado warning, seek shelter. Don’t wait around to see what will happen.

If you are in a building, you should go to the lowest level. Ideally, you should choose an interior room with no windows, that is away from doors, corners of the building and outside walls. Climb under a sturdy table and be ready to put your arms over your head and neck for protection from debris.

If you are in a vehicle or mobile home, get out right away and seek shelter in the lower level of a nearby building. If you live in a mobile home, figure out ahead of time where a safe shelter is. You don’t want to be figuring that little detail out in the midst of a tornado.

If you are outside and cannot seek shelter in a building or storm shelter, lie flat in a ditch or low area and cover your head with your arms. Flooding is a possibility, so keep aware in case you need to move quickly.

Some people think hiding under a bridge or overpass is a good idea during a tornado. However, this is not true. You will be safest in a low, flat location.

You should also be aware that there will be debris flying around. This is what causes the most injuries during a tornado.

It is interesting to note that tornadoes usually occur between 3 and 9 pm, but they can occur any time, so always be ready. Make sure you have a battery operated or hand crank weather radio to monitor the situation while you shelter. You should also have a flashlight or other emergency lighting. Make sure your first aid kit is fully supplied as well.

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Bioterrorism Preparedness

Are you prepared for bioterrorism?

Do you prepare for bioterrorism? Bioterrorism is when a virus, bacteria or other germs are released in an area to deliberately cause death or illness. The target may be people, but bioterrorists can also target plants and animals, because ultimately, that will affect humans as well.

Biological agents may be spread through food and water, or through the air. They are difficult to detect and symptoms may not show up for hours, or even days, after infection. In this time, biological agents can spread from person to person, causing widespread illness and/or death.

The CDC categorizes biological agents into categories. Category A agents can be easily spread, result in high death rates and may cause the public to panic. Category B are moderately easy to spread and cause moderate illness and low death rates. Category C include emerging pathogens that are easily available, easily produced and easily spread. They have the potential for high death rates and are expected to have a high impact on the public.

In preparation for a bioterrorist attack, the federal government has a stockpile of antibiotics to distribute. However, as we saw in the H1N1 pandemic flu panic, there is likely to be a shortage if there is widespread illness among the general public.

In fact, an article in the Washington Post stated that there are dangerous gaps in this country’s bioterrorism preparedness. And while that article was from 2011, our current statistics show we haven’t made a huge improvement in the area of preparedness. The December 2012 Ready or Not? report says there are still “persistent gaps” in the country’s ability to handle health emergencies, whether that be bioterrorism or disease outbreaks.

Preparing ourselves for a terrorist attack is essential. We can’t be sure that we can rely on the federal government or local health agencies to help us. In addition to our basic survival kits, it is a good idea to have an extensive first aid kit.

While the government does not recommend that the public stockpile antibiotics, some people choose to do so anyhow. Ironic that the federal government tells us not to do what it is doing.

To learn more, read the articles by Dr. Joseph Alton (Dr. Bones) on must-have antibiotics and the truth about expiration dates.

It is also important to note that many herbal remedies are more effective than pharmaceutical drugs, but without the side effects. That said, herbal remedies should only be used under the guidance of a trained herbalist as they can sometimes interfere with medications.

What are you doing to prepare for a bioterrorist attack?

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Nuclear Preparedness

nuclear reactor

After reading about all the earthquakes in Japan, I started thinking more about nuclear preparedness. Yes, we have nuclear power plants here in the U.S., but we could also be affected by the nuclear plants in Japan if one was to be damaged during another earthquake. Indeed, the entire world as we know it could be affected.

What do you know about nuclear preparedness?

The basic steps recommended by the CDC are to get inside an undamaged building and stay there. Shower and put on clean clothes if you were outside when the accident occurred, and listen to the radio or TV for further instructions.

If you are at home and not told to evacuate, you should have plans to shelter in place. This involves going into a central room or basement with as few windows as possible. Make sure your entire family knows where the shelter location is so they can get to it quickly.

Ideally, this is where you have your emergency supplies stored so you have easy access to them. The standard emergency kit still applies for the most part. You’ll need water and food in your kit, as well as a change of clothing, battery operated radio, flashlight, medications, etc.

You’ll also want bedding, toiletries and sanitation supplies, plastic bags, paper plates and towels, pet supplies and food, baby supplies and your cell phone. Games, books and other entertainment items are nice to have in your shelter as well. You should also be sure you have a first aid kit and know how to use what’s in it. Be sure you have potassium iodide in your kit, just in case authorities recommend it, because they may not have enough for everyone who needs it.

Be sure to also have plastic sheeting and duct tape. These items are important to seal off the door and vents to keep radioactive material from getting into your shelter. You should also turn off the air conditioner, furnace and fans that draw air from the outside.

If you have pets, you will also need to set up an area for them to relieve themselves, because you won’t be able to take them outside during a nuclear disaster. Keeping a supply of newspaper or puppy pads is a good idea, as well as bleach and cleaning supplies. This is important to keep your shelter as clean as possible.

If you were outdoors when the accident occurred, removed clothing and shoes before entering the shelter to avoid contamination. Leaving these items outside can reduce your exposure by as much as 90%. Once inside, shower with soap and water to remove any lingering contamination.

Turn on your emergency radio and wait for further instructions and updates. You will be notified when it’s safe to come out.

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