Health Department Offers Warm Advice About The Cold
White Plains, NY - With cold, wintry temperatures expected this week, the Westchester County Department of Health reminds residents to take precautions against hypothermia and frostbite and to take care when heating their homes using alternate heating sources.“For those who remain without power, shelters and warming centers remain available,” said Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino. “Also, if you have elderly or ailing neighbors who live alone, be sure to check on them every day when the weather is cold,” he added.
For the latest on shelter availability, contact your local municipality. Libraries, municipal buildings and malls are also good places to warm up and you can visit www.westchestergov.com.
“Low temperatures can be life-threatening, especially for seniors, infants and people who are at increased risk for hypothermia,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Sherlita Amler. “Accidental hypothermia can occur even with temperatures of 60 to 65 degrees, so I urge residents who have power, especially those households with seniors or infants, to keep their thermostats set at no less than 68 degrees during the daytime.”
Seniors and infants less than one year of age should never sleep in a cold room and should be dressed in warm clothing to prevent the loss of body heat. If a safe temperature cannot be maintained inside your home, make temporary arrangements to stay elsewhere.
Residents who are still without power and are using a portable generator to fuel their homes need to be aware that generators can be dangerous if not used properly. Using a generator indoors can kill you in minutes! Never use a generator inside your house or in partly enclosed areas such as garages, basements, porches, crawlspaces, sheds, carports or breezeways, even if your windows are open. Generators should only be operated outside, away from open windows. Carbon monoxide in the generator's fumes can build up and cause carbon monoxide poisoning, which can lead to death. Additionally, if you plan to cook on a barbeque grill or camp stove, remember these also produce carbon monoxide and are for outdoor use only.
Warning signs of hypothermia in adults include shivering, confusion, memory loss, drowsiness, exhaustion and slurred speech. Infants with hypothermia may appear sluggish, with very low energy and bright red, cold skin.
Frostbite is another cold weather concern and is especially dangerous because it often happens with little warning. Numbness can occur so quickly that the individual, unaware of being frostbitten, may remain outside, increasing the chance of permanent damage. Older people, and those with diabetes, are especially vulnerable to frostbite because of impaired circulation.
Tips to prevent frostbite and hypothermia:
- Dress warmly in windproof clothing.
- Go indoors when you begin to feel cold.
- Wear several layers of loose-fitting clothing to trap body heat.
- Remember gloves, scarves and a hat that covers the ears.
If you think that someone is suffering from hypothermia or frostbite, call a medical provider immediately.
The Health Department also reminds residents to take the following precautions when using alternate heating sources in their homes:
- Use fireplaces, wood stoves, or other combustion heaters only if they are properly vented to the outside and do not leak flue gas into the indoor air space.
- Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using alternate heating sources like space heaters and wood burning stoves.
- Ensure adequate ventilation if you must use a kerosene heater.
- Use only the type of fuel your heater is designed to use - don’t substitute.
- Do not place a space heater within three feet of anything that may catch on fire, such as drapes, furniture, or bedding, and never cover your space heater.
- Never place a space heater on top of furniture or near water.
- Never leave children or pets unattended near a space heater, fireplace or wood burning stove.
For more information on cold weather safety, contact the Westchester County Department of Health at (914) 813-5000 or visit our website at www.westchestergov.com/health.