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Life-threatening dangers of winter weather

Posted at 5:57 PM, Dec 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-27 17:57:08-05

Winter has arrived in full force here in the Detroit metro area. As temperatures drop into the single digits and below, a whole new crop of health concerns begin to emerge.

In fact, a recent study found that a person’s risk of dying in cold weather is 17 times greater than it is in warm weather.

Why? Cold weather creates hazardous variables that simply don’t exist when the weather is more comfortable. So it’s important to be extra vigilant this winter.

Not only do we have to worry about obvious risks like hypothermia and frostbite -- but some of the ways in which we try to keep warm and cozy during the winter can also be hazardous.

For instance, the American Red Cross says that three out of every four fire-related deaths happen as a result of people using space heaters incorrectly. So some of these dangers are obvious and others, less so. 

Here are some important things everyone should keep in mind in this winter:

  • Cold weather puts extra stress on the heart. If you’re elderly or have an underlying heart condition, consider paying someone to shovel for you. 
  • Be extra careful with candles and space heaters in the home. Keep them at least three feet away from other household objects to avoid fires.
  • Cover your extremities when you’re outside. Frostbite can come on quickly and without warning. 
  • Practice defensive driving and walking. Give other drivers extra space in the car, and keep a low center of gravity when on your feet.

Hypothermia is definitely something to be mindful of when the temperature dips below freezing, especially for children and the elderly and for folks who lack access to sufficient heating.

When your body can’t replenish its heat and energy stores quickly enough, the brain begins to shut down and hypothermia sets in. This can happen quickly, and it’s extremely dangerous.

Some signs of hypothermia are intense shivering, slurred speech, drowsiness, and confusion.  

If you see anyone exhibit these symptoms in the cold weather, seek medical assistance immediately.