Braving the cold? Here are some health, safety tips

As temperatures across WAVE Country are expected to drop, doctors, firefighters, and animal advocates are warning the public of the common, deadly mistakes peop
Published: Feb. 4, 2022 at 3:32 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - As temperatures across WAVE Country are expected to drop in some places to single digits, doctors, firefighters and animal advocates are warning the public of the common, deadly mistakes people make in the cold.

If you’re staying inside and planning to use a space heater, ensure any other items are at least three feet away, and don’t leave it unattended.

On Thursday, firefighters responded to a big blaze in Clifton after items near a space heater caught fire.

“Time and time again there are fires this time of year because space heaters are too close to combustible things,” Jordan Yuodis, public information officer for Jefferson County Fire said. “Piles of clothes, furniture, curtains; fire departments see it across the country.”

Yuodis also warned against using an oven to heat a home.

He added if you lose power and plan to use a generator, make sure it’s far enough away from the home to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

During the 2009 Louisville ice storm, around 30 people died from carbon monoxide poisoning, according to Yuodis.

“It’s going to be bone-chilling cold and people are going to do what they need to do to stay warm, but we want to make sure that if they have to do those types of things, they’re doing it safe,” Yuodis said.

If you must be outdoors, dress appropriately for the weather and try to stay dry to avoid frostbite.

Dr. Matt Bozeman, a trauma surgeon and the director of the burn unit at UofL Health told WAVE News frostbite can happen in a matter of minutes, and it doesn’t have to be very cold or windy.

He added if your fingers, toes, nose, ears, or other parts of your body start to feel tingly, try to go inside to warm up.

“We recommend getting them inside, getting them a warm cup of tea, it’s okay to soak the fingers or toes in some warm water, and call for help,” Bozeman said. “Especially if the area looks white, hard, or waxy or something like that, which might indicate a deeper frostbite issue.”

Bozeman said certain populations are at greater risk of getting frostbite, including people with diabetes, people with poor blood flow or circulation and people on certain medications. However, your risk for frostbite can be exacerbated by anything that decreases blood flow.

“Dehydration is a big one,” Bozeman said. “You don’t feel the fluid loss like you would if you’d been sweating outside all day, but you still need to maintain the amount of fluids that you’re drinking, even if it’s not hot outside.”

“Even medications like beta blockers in our older population, they decrease some blood flow to the extremities, especially the fingers and toes, and puts you at increased risk for frostbite,” he added.

Animals are also at risk of frostbite and hyperthermia when they’re left outside for too long.

The Kentucky Humane Society recommends bringing your pets inside when temperatures drop below freezing, because it’s more difficult to protect them from health risks caused by the cold.

“The biggest problem animals outside face is that they have a lot of body parts that are out and exposed to the elements that can’t be protected,” Megan Decker, media manager for the Kentucky Humane Society said. “The biggest thing here is their noses; their noses are extremely sensitive, and unfortunately you can’t cover a nose.”

Decker said dogs’ and cats’ paw pads are also sensitive to the cold.

If your animal wants to play outside, make sure they are only outdoors for short periods of time. When you bring them inside, remember to wipe off their paws because de-icer can have harmful chemicals a pet may try to lick off.

If you cannot bring your animals inside, or in a garage or laundry room, make sure they have proper shelter, plenty of food and water and a coat to keep them warm. KHS said to also check on them frequently.

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