Extreme Cold Weather Prevention Guide 01 30 2015

Extreme Cold: a Prevention GuideWhen the weather is extremely cold, and especially if there are high winds, try to stay indoors. Make any trips outside as brief as possible, and remember these tips below to protect your health and safety.

Dress Warmly and Stay Dry

Adults and children should wear:

  • a hat
  • a scarf or knit mask to cover face and mouth
  • sleeves that are snug at the wrist
  • mittens (they are warmer than gloves)
  • water-resistant coat and boots
  • several layers of loose-fitting clothing

Be sure the outer layer of your clothing is tightly woven, preferably wind resistant, to reduce body-heat loss caused by wind. Wool, silk, or polypropylene inner layers of clothing will hold more body heat than cotton. Stay dry—wet clothing chills the body rapidly. Excess perspiration will increase heat loss, so remove extra layers of clothing whenever you feel too warm. Also, avoid getting gasoline or alcohol on your skin while de-icing and fueling your car or using a snow blower. These materials in contact with the skin greatly increase heat loss from the body. Do not ignore shivering. It’s an important first sign that the body is losing heat. Persistent shivering is a signal to return indoors.

Be Safe During Recreation

Notify friends and family where you will be before you go hiking, camping, or skiing. Do not leave areas of the skin exposed to the cold. Avoid perspiring or becoming overtired. Be prepared to take emergency shelter. Pack dry clothing, a two-wave radio, waterproof matches and paraffin fire starters with you. Do not use alcohol and other mood altering substances, and avoid caffeinated beverages. Avoid walking on ice or getting wet. Carefully watch for signs of cold-weather health problems.

Avoid Frostbite and Hypothermia

When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up your body’s stored energy. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. Body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well. This makes hypothermia particularly dangerous because a person may not know it is happening and won’t be able to do anything about it.
Hypothermia is most likely at very cold temperatures, but it can occur even at cool temperatures (above 40°F) if a person becomes chilled from rain, sweat, or submersion in cold water.
Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. Frostbite can permanently damage the body, and severe cases can lead to amputation. The risk of frostbite is increased in people with reduced blood circulation and among people who are not dressed properly for extremely cold temperatures.
For more information about frostbite and hypothermia, see Stay Safe & Healthy(http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/staysafe/index.asp).

Avoid Exertion

Cold weather puts an extra strain on the heart. If you have heart disease or high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s advice about shoveling snow or performing other hard work in the cold. Otherwise, if you have to do heavy outdoor chores, dress warmly and work slowly. Remember, your body is already working hard just to stay warm, so don’t overdo it.

Understand Wind Chill

The Wind Chill index is the temperature your body feels when the air temperature is combined with the wind speed. It is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin caused by the effects of wind and cold. As the speed of the wind increases, it can carry heat away from your body much more quickly, causing skin temperature to drop. When there are high winds, serious weather-related health problems are more likely, even when temperatures are only cool.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention offers an Extreme Cold Prevention Guide available on their website: http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/guide.asp

Source: www.cdc.gov/disaster/winter

Protect Yourself and Be Prepared – NJ Poison Experts Warn of Snow-Related Poisoning Exposures 01 26 2015

(Newark, NJ) – January 26, 2015 Dangerous conditions lay ahead for residents of the Garden State as they prepare for a massive winter storm expected later today into tomorrow. This storm is expected to cause extremely dangerous driving/traveling conditions – heavy snow with high accumulations; strong, gusty winds causing snow drifts; low visibility; slippery/icy roads; and frigid temperatures.  The NJ Poison Experts have weathered all storms alongside residents (24 hours a day/7 days a week/365 days a year).  From our experience with Super Storm Sandy, we learned a great deal about unintentional poisonings/exposures that may occur in the midst of severe weather. 
“Major storms like the one we will be expecting later today into tomorrow are known to result in illness and even deaths from hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning, as well as exposures to a variety of substances.” said Steven Marcus, MD, executive and medical director of the NJ Poison Center. Exposures to carbon monoxide often happen when people attempt to heat their homes by using space heaters and portable generators that run on kerosene, propane, or natural gas without proper ventilation. The danger occurs when too much carbon monoxide gets trapped inside an area that is poorly ventilated. 
Keep in mind, high winds can result in power outages across the state. If power is lost it may be lost for an extensive period of time and your cell phone may become your lifeline!  “Remember, the experts are hard at work responding to your calls for help, 24/7/365,” said Dr. Marcus. Protecting yourself and being prepared is half the battle when dealing with such intense weather.
“We learned from Super Storm Sandy how important a fully charged cell phone can be when dealing with severe weather,” said Marcus. “To prepare for this storm, program the Poison Help Hotline (800-222-1222) into all phones (home, cell, office) now.” Keep your cell phone charged whenever possible.
Below you will find key safety tips and prevention precautions that may potentially save your life or the life of a loved ones.
Safety Tips to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning:
·         Check the batteries in your carbon monoxide detector and smoke detector. If you don’t have either detector, install before the storm hits.
·         Clear any snow accumulation from all outside dryer and heating vents.
·         Remove snow from car exhaust pipe(s) before sitting in car and letting it warm up. Failure to remove snow can result in carbon monoxide poisoning. Be sure there is ample room for air to circulate behind your car to allow any exhaust to dissipate and not build up around your car.
·         Do not bring a portable gas powered generator into the home or garage –
o   Do not place them outside near any open windows/doors
o   They should be at least 25 feet from any house 
·         Do not bring other gas powered equipment, propane stoves, propane lights, or kerosene camping stoves into the house or garage.
·         Do not heat your home with your stove.
·         DO not cook with charcoal indoors or inside your house or garage.
·         DO NOT idle a car in a closed garage. Once you pull in, immediately turn off the engine.
·         Keep your home well ventilated. If need be, keep a window slightly cracked to allow air flow.
·         During storm cleanup, keep all gas powered cleaning equipment outside away from the house when in use. Bringing and using them indoors could result in serious injury.
If you suspect Carbon Monoxide Poisoning, Take Immediate Action:  
1.       If a loved one is unconscious or unresponsive, get out them out of the house and call 911 immediately.
2.       Exit the house/building immediately. Do not waste time opening windows to “air” it out; this will delay your escape and cause you to breathe in more dangerous fumes.
3.       Contact your local fire department/energy provider.
4.       Call the NJ Poison Experts, 800-222-1222, for immediate treatment advice. Do not waste time looking for information on the internet about carbon monoxide poisoning. Call us for fast, free and accurate information.
General Safety Tips:
·         Have a flashlight with fresh batteries ready to use (you may have used the flashlight during previous storms including Hurricane Sandy, replace the batteries if you did).
o   Make sure to use a flashlight when giving or taking medication. Read all labels carefully.
·         Have a battery-operated radio available and be sure the batteries are fresh.
·         Risk for hypothermia increases with frigid temperatures. Infants, children, and the elderly are at greatest risk for hypothermia. 
o   Signs and symptoms include headaches, sleepiness, fatigue, confusion and irritability, nausea, vomiting, irregular heartbeat, impaired vision and coordination, and death
o   Stay warm and dress appropriately! For prolonged exposure to cold, wear insulated or layered clothing that does not retain moisture.  Wear a head cover!
o   Avoid over-exertion and excessive sweating in the cold. Snow shoveling is a very intense exercise.  If you are not in top physical shape, don’t attempt it yourself.
o   Warm beverages can help increase the body temperature.
o   Avoid drinking alcohol, especially in cold temperatures.
o   Some medications may increase your risk.  Check with your doctor, pharmacist or call the Poison Control Center
Safety Tips to Prevent Food Spoilage during a Power Outage:
·         With the threat of power outages, it is important to be careful about food stored in refrigerators and freezers. Food-borne illness, also known as food poisoning, results from the eating of food that is contaminated with harmful bacteria, viruses or other foreign material. Contamination is caused by improper food handling and preparation practices. The symptoms of food-borne illness are flu-like and may include abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and fever.
·         In preparing for a power outage, make the temperature colder than usual on both freezers and refrigerators.  This will prolong the cold after a power outage.
·         During a power outage, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed and open them only when necessary.
·         Place a refrigerator thermometer in the center of the middle shelf and check the temperature. If it has risen to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, discard any potentially spoiled foods. Such foods include meat, poultry, fish, dairy and egg products, soft cheese, cooked beans, cooked rice, cooked potatoes, cooked pasta, potato salad, custard and pudding.
·         Fill freezers to capacity, but refrigerators need room for air to circulate.
·         When power is restored, allow time for the refrigerator to reach below 40 degrees Fahrenheit before restocking.
·         If it looks funny, smells funny or if you are just unsure, “When in doubt, throw it out!”
Don’t waste valuable time looking up information on the Internet when every minute counts.  “Many of the calls we get are genuine emergencies,” said Marcus. Poisons may act very quickly. Having a poison expert give you exact instructions for your specific situation can help significantly during those critical first few minutes.


Seasonal Flu At Elevated Levels

The flu season has begun with an earlier than usual start. Flu activity is expected to continue in the coming weeks.

Seasonal flu is a serious disease that causes illness, hospitalizations, and unfortunately, deaths. Those most vulnerable are older adults and the very young.

“Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, absenteeism from work or school, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations and deaths,” said Deputy Health Commissioner Dr. Arturo Brito. “Even unvaccinated people who have already gotten sick with flu can still benefit from vaccination since the flu vaccine protects against the different viruses expected to circulate each season.”

The media has been reporting that the main circulating flu virus is not perfectly matched by the vaccine. Flu viruses can change and sometimes this happens. Yet, the flu vaccine is still the best protection and can minimize symptoms of flu. In the context of reduced vaccine effectiveness, however, the use of influenza antiviral drugs as a second line of defense against the flu becomes even more important, especially for those at high risk and people who are very sick. This is a prescription medication, so if you have signs of the flu, contact your health care provider, as the medication is most effective when used within 48 hours of symptoms.

Flu symptoms include:

  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (very tired)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
*It’s important to note that not every one with flu will have a fever.
The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) would like to remind all healthcare providers to:
encourage all patients 6 months of age and older who have not yet received an influenza vaccine this season to be vaccinated against influenza start antiviral treatment as early as possible for any patient with confirmed or suspected influenza and not wait for laboratory confirmation of influenza to make treatment decisions promote preventive health practices that help decrease the spread of influenza.