Winter warmth is a must
On the cusp of winter, it is unfortunately a time of year in which many people become ill and even die as a result of overexposure to the cold, Netcare911 Paramedics across the country deal with a number of cases in which people succumb to overexposure and even hypothermia year on year.
Prolonged exposure to the cold, and especially wet and windy weather, can be dangerous. It can cause the human body’s temperature to fall and the heartbeat to become erratic. Hypothermia begins to occur when the temperature of the human body falls to below 35 degrees Celsius and becomes dangerous as it starts falling below 28 degrees.
In South Africa, many people who are not adequately clothed and sheltered against the cold weather of winter. Thus they are exposed to the elements for extended periods and suffer the physical consequences. Older people and children are the most at risk as their bodies are not as resilient, but everyone can be seriously affected if they are exposed to the cold for prolonged periods of time.
People are cautioned against prolonged exposure to the elements and advised to stay under shelter and warmly clothed when it is cold and/or rainy. Wear waterproofed clothing if you have to go out in the rain. Do not stay in your wet clothes if you do get wet; rather change into dry ones. Fires and heating can help to warm up your home, but can also bring a new element of danger into the home.
During Winter we also have to deal with a lot of burn victims whose fires or heaters are allowed to set their homes alight. We at Netcare 911 ask the public to be very vigilant when it comes to fire and heating, which can be exceptionally hazardous.
Electric heaters and electric blankets can sometimes cause electrical fires especially when they are not used as instructed or are left on for overly long periods of time. Heaters of all kinds including gas, electric and paraffin are commonly misused or not watched closely enough and set fire to curtains, bedding and other flammable household items.
Signs of over-exposure to the cold
• Numbness and cramps
• Drowsiness and extreme fatigue
• Blurred vision
• Move the person to a warmer, dry place.
• If the person is unconscious put them in a comfortable position. If they are not breathing and there is no pulse, commence CPR if you are trained to do so.
• Dry them and put them in dry clothing if available.
• Gradually re-warm the person using blankets or sleeping bags, but do not warm them up too suddenly. Do not, for example, put them directly in front of a hot fire or heater as this may put strain on their heart.
• If the person is conscious you may give them warm drinks.
• Get the individual medical attention – Call 082 911
Information supplied by Jeffrey Wicks of Netcare 911