In advance of the extreme cold expected this weekend, the McKee Administration is reminding all Rhode Islanders about ways to stay healthy and safe.
According to the National Weather Service, Rhode Island will experience temperatures and wind chills below freezing Friday, February 3 into Saturday, February 4. Extreme cold can cause hypothermia, frostbite, and can contribute to events like household fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. The best way to protect your health against extreme cold is to prepare yourself, your home, and your car before extremely cold weather.
Dress in layers. Cover exposed skin. Wind chills this low may result in frostbite on exposed skin in as few as 15 minutes. Limit outdoor time. Add blankets to your home’s emergency kit. Eat frequently. Food gives the body energy to produce heat. Do not drink a lot of alcohol or caffeine. Alcohol and caffeine cause your body to lose heat faster. Check on older family and friends; infants and older adults are more at risk for health problems related to extreme temperature. Your baby should wear the same layers adults would comfortably wear plus one additional layer. Avoid using one big, bulky blanket. Know the signs and symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite.
Prepare your car:
Keep your gas tank near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines. Make a winter emergency kit for your car. Add extra blankets and a windshield. Make sure your tires have enough air pressure and that your heater works. Check your car’s antifreeze levels. Tell your friends and family if you are traveling somewhere. If you can, bring a mobile phone with you.
Prepare your pets:
Limit outdoor time for your pets. Bring outdoor pets inside.
Prepare your house:
Extreme cold can cause your water pipes to freeze and sometimes break. Leave your water tap open so they drip. Open the cabinets beneath the kitchen sink to let warm air near the pipes. Be careful with indoor heaters; keep space heaters three feet away from anything that may catch fire. Conserve heat. Don’t open doors or windows unless necessary. Close off unneeded rooms. Do not use generators, grills, or camp stoves inside. Install a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector to protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning. Put a carbon monoxide detector near your bedroom so you can hear it if you are sleeping.
Watch for warning signs:
When exposed to cold temperatures, your body can lose heat quickly and develop frostbite or hypothermia or both. Frostbite most often impacts noses, ears, cheeks, chins, fingers, and toes. Signs of frostbite include discolored (red, white, or greyish-yellow) skin and numbness. If you notice signs of frostbite, get into a warm area as soon as possible and call a healthcare provider. Warm the affected area with warm water or with body heat. Frostbitten areas can be easily burned because they are numb. Do not use hot water, heating pads, or the heat of a stove or radiator for warming.
Signs of hypothermia include shivering; exhaustion; confusion, memory loss, slurred speech; bright red, cold skin in infants, and very low energy in infants. If you notice signs of hypothermia, take the person’s temperature. If their temperature is below 95°F, this is an emergency, and the person should get medical attention immediately.
Some cities and towns have warming centers open to those who need shelter during periods of extreme cold. To find a warming center near you, call 2-1-1 or visit: https://riema.ri.gov/planning-mitigation/resources-businesses/warming-centers.
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