Skip to Content

Published on February 13, 2014

DeKalb County Health Department Provides Cold Weather Safety Tips

February 6, 2014

With below freezing temperatures continuing to plague the area, the DeKalb County Health Department is reminding residents about two health conditions caused by cold winter weather. 

“While all residents should take precautions to protect themselves from the harsh temperatures, some residents are especially at risk. Remember to check on elderly or infirm neighbors and relatives often to ensure they are managing during a cold snap,” says Jane Lux, Public Health Administrator at the DeKalb County Health Department.

Hypothermia is a drop in body temperature to 95 degrees Fahrenheit or less and can be fatal if not detected promptly and treated properly. The condition usually develops over a period of time, anywhere from a few days to several weeks. Signs of hypothermia include forgetfulness, drowsiness, slurred speech, a change in appearance, week pulse, slow heartbeat, slow and shallow breathing or a body temperature which drops below 85 degrees Fahrenheit. If you notice these symptoms, take the person’s temperature.  If it is 95 degrees Fahrenheit or below, call a doctor or ambulance, or take the victim directly to the hospital. 

Frostbite is caused by bitterly cold temperatures and typically affects exposed areas of the face, the ears, wrists, hands and feet.  Be prepared for signs of frostbite. Skin that turns whitish, stiff or numb should be warmed gradually. Wrap the area in blankets, sweaters, coats, etc. Do not rub affected area or apply snow to frostbite. Seek medical attention immediately.

Lux offers the following tips to keep you and your family safe during cold weather:

General tips:

  • Wear a warm hat. Most body heat is lost through the head.
  • Protect your feet and hands. Waterproof boots and gloves will keep extremities warm and dry.
  • Cover as much of your face as possible while outside; breathe through a scarf or mask to warm air before it enters lungs.
  • Wear several layers of lightweight clothing rather than one or two layers of heavy garments. The air between the garments acts as insulation to keep the body warmer.
  • Drink caffeine-free, non-alcoholic beverages such as de-caffeinated coffee, tea, hot chocolate and soup to stay warm and hydrated.
  • Check with your doctor or pharmacist about medications that could cause problems in cold weather

Shoveling snow:

  • Cold weather strains the heart of even those in good shape. If you are strong enough to handle shoveling, make sure you rest often and pace yourself. Or if you are not in good shape, ask for help from a physically fit neighbor, friend, or relative. 
  • Use a proper snow shovel and lift with your legs, not your back.

Auto safety:

  • Keep your car in good condition by making sure you have enough gas, antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid and oil.
  • Carry emergency supplies, including a flashlight and blanket.

In the home:

  • Never use an oven as a heating device. Read all directions before using space heaters and other portable heating units.
  • Make sure cracks in windows and doors are repaired. For a quick fix, use towels, rugs or newspapers.
  • Keep an emergency supply of bottled water and canned and other non-perishable foods along with batteries and flashlights in case you are stranded at home. Make sure baby foods, diapers and medicines are included in your supply.

The state recognized warming centers for DeKalb County are: during the weekday – the local Department of Healthcare and Family Services office, 1629 Afton Road, Sycamore; during the evening or weekend – the DeKalb Oasis, 2700 N. Crego Road, DeKalb. Residents should also check with their local police and fire stations, public libraries, and city hall as available warming centers.

Footer Curve