Thursday, January 4, 2018

Tips on how to avoid hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning, and how to keep your sleeping baby safe in the winter

With temperatures in Kentucky falling below freezing for days and several months of cold weather in front of us, the state Department for Public Health offers tips on protecting yourself from getting hypothermia, how to avoid carbon-monoxide poisoning, and also offers safe-sleep suggestions for families with babies that will also keep them warm.


Hypothermia happens when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature. If left untreated, it can eventually affect the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well. It can also lead to heart and lung failure, and even death.

Hypothermia is often caused by immersion in cold water, but can also be a result of exposure to extremely cold temperatures. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention adds that it can also happen during cool temperatures (40 degrees) if a person is wet (from rain, sweat or cold water) and becomes chilled.

According to the CDC, older adults with inadequate provisions, babies sleeping in cold bedrooms, people who are outdoors for long periods of time, and people who drink alcohol or use illicit drugs are at the most risk of getting hypothermia.

Symptoms include shivering, an altered speech pattern, abnormally slow rate of breathing, cold pale skin and lethargy. In infants, the symptoms include bright red or cold skin and very low energy levels. The Department for Public Health advises that you seek medical attention if you or a loved one experiences the signs of hypothermia.

Here are the health department's tips tips to prevent hypothermia:
  • Wear appropriate clothing, including layers of synthetic and wool fabrics, hats, coats, scarves and gloves. The best outerwear is water-resistant.
  • Avoid consuming alcohol if outdoors, which can speed the loss of heat from the body.
  • Avoid activities that cause excessive sweat, which leads to damp clothing, and chilling.
  • Stay as dry as possible
  • The CDC recommends making a car emergency kit that among other things includes extra hats,coats and mittens, blankets, a cell phone and portable charger, water, snacks and jumper cables.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

The department warns Kentuckians that portable generators, propane gas stoves, and ovens heated with gasoline, which have all been used as heat sources indoors, can lead to carbon-monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, invisible gas produced when gasoline, natural gas, propane, kerosene and other fuels are not completely burned during use. Breathing in carbon monoxide fumes prevents the body from using oxygen normally and can result in death.

Consumer Reports graphic
The CDC reports that each year more than 400 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room and more than 4,000 are hospitalized.

Early symptoms of carbon-monoxide poisoning include headache, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. If you are experiencing symptoms or if you have questions, call the Poison Control Hotline at (800) 222-1222.

Here are tips for avoidng carbon-monoxide poisoning:
  • Install a battery-operated carbon-monoxide detector in your home and replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. Replace the device every five years.
  • Don’t use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement or garage or near a window.
  • Don’t run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open.
  • Don’t burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn’t properly vented. Have your chimney checked or cleaned yearly.
  • Don’t heat your house with a gas oven.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning

Infant Safe Sleep

In general, parents and caregivers should follow the ABCs of safe sleep to prevent injury or infant deaths -- Alone, on their Back, and in a Clean Clear Crib.
However, Department of Public Health officials warn that winter months present a different – but very serious – threat for babies when parents and caregivers resort to using unsafe sleep practices in an effort to keep babies warm.

The state health department offers these safe-sleep tips for babies in the winter months:
  • For added warmth, dress baby in a one-piece pajama or wearable blanket, and layer with an undershirt of a onesie. They also offer a warning to make sure your baby doesn't get too hot.
  • Keep the baby’s room at a comfortable temperature and don't overheat the room.
  • Don't put a hat on your baby to sleep; there is a risk the hat could slip down, covering the baby’s face.
  • If a blanket must be used to keep a baby warm, make sure the baby’s feet are at the bottom of the crib and the blanket is tucked in around the mattress. The blanket should be no higher than the baby’s chest with the baby’s arms out.
  • Keep all portable heaters away from the baby and baby’s sleep area. The baby can overheat if too close to a heater, receive burns or become tangled up in cords of small electric heaters.
For more information about safe sleep practices, click here for the SafeSleep Kentucky website and for more information about hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning , click here for the Kentucky Health Alerts website.

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