Avoid Hypothermia and Falls in Deep Freeze

Jan 7, 2014

Cortlandt Manor, NY

Avoid Hypothermia and Falls in Deep Freeze

An arctic weather system that has dropped temperatures into the single digits is causing dangerous outdoor conditions in our area. Physicians at NewYork-Presbyterian/Hudson Valley Hospital are recommending some steps to help the public take extra precautions against the cold.

Dr. Barry Geller on staff in the Emergency Department at NewYork-Presbyterian/Hudson Valley Hospital said people who work outdoors, the elderly and children are at higher risk of hypothermia, a condition where the body temperature drops to dangerous levels.

"Keeping warm is especially important when the temperatures drop so low," said Dr. Geller. "Limit the amount of time spent outdoors, but if you must go out dress in layers and wear a hat."

Wearing several layers of clothing helps to insulate your body by trapping warm, dry air inside and wearing a hat is important since the head and neck lose heat faster than any other part of the body.

He said for those who work outdoors frostbite is an added danger. The cheeks, ear and nose and fingers are most prone to frostbite so those areas should be well-protected against the cold.

Signs of frostbite include white, waxy or grayish-yellow patches on the affected areas. The skin may feel cold and numb. If you suspect frostbite, get out of the cold and to a warm place immediately, remove clothing or jewelry that may be reducing circulation and seek medical attention.

Slips and falls are among some of the other more frequently seen injuries in emergency rooms this time of year. Dr. Geller said that more than a dozen accidents related to slips on the ice were seen at HVHC during the past few days, mostly hip and wrist fractures. Wearing proper shoes and making sure that walkways and steps are cleared and salted are the best way to avoid injuries.

Dr. Ari Mayerfield, hand surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian/Hudson Valley Hospital, said that broken wrists often result in falls because people will instinctively reach out to with their hands to break a fall.

"This time of year, particularly when there is a lot of black ice in extreme temperatures as we have now, it is not unusual for people to be injured in falls," said Dr. Mayerfield. "Getting the right treatment and quickly is very important."

Dr. Mayerfield said that a broken arm or wrist bone will be extremely painful and there may also be swelling and tenderness. The best thing to do is to seek medical attention. You should first stabilize the arm with a sling and apply an ice pack to the area. A bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel works well. The only way to really be sure if there is a break is with an X-ray.

NewYork-Presbyterian/Hudson Valley Hospital is dedicated to serving the health care needs of the community and to providing quality, comprehensive medical care in a compassionate, professional, respectful manner, without regard to race, religion, national origin or disease category. Offering state-of-the-art diagnostic treatment, education and preventive services, the Hospital is committed to improving the quality of life in the community. In fulfilling this mission, the Hospital will strive to continuously improve the care provided and develop and offer programs, facilities, systems and alliances that most effectively respond to community health care