Extreme Cold (Hypothermia)
Hypothermia is when your body's control mechanisms fail to maintain a normal body temperature. Exposure to cold temperatures, whether indoors or outside, can cause serious or life-threatening health problems. Infants and the elderly are particularly at risk, but anyone can be affected. To keep yourself and your family safe, you should know how to prevent cold-related health problems and what to do if a cold-weather health emergency arises.
Extremely cold temperatures often accompany a winter storm, so you may have to cope with power failures and icy roads. Although staying indoors as much as possible can help reduce the risk of car crashes and falls on the ice, you may also face indoor hazards. Many homes will be too cold -- either due to a power failure or because the heating system isn't adequate for the weather. When people must use space heaters and fireplaces to stay warm, the risk of household fires increases, as well as the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. (See: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Your Home)
MedLine Plus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are excellent Web resources for information on hypothermia and cold-related health threats. Follow the links below for information from these sources:
- Hypothermia/Cold-Related Illness, Medline Plus
- Extreme Cold: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety, CDC