Missourians are urged to check on neighbors, the elderly and disabled citizens

Bitterly cold temperatures and dangerously cold wind chills are forecasted for this weekend and next week. The National Weather Service forecast for Friday (December 29) through Thursday (January 4) includes low temperatures between 10 F and -5 F; dangerous wind chill values are expected to be as cold as -15 F to -30 F. The coldest temperatures are expected to be Sunday night through Monday night. The coldest periods are expected during the early hours of each of those days.

Prolonged exposure to the cold can lead to serious health issues including frostbite, hypothermia and, in extreme cases, death. Therefore, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services urges residents to minimize outside activities during the extreme cold and follow these safety tips:

  • Stay indoors in a warm area. If heat is not available, a warming center near you can be located at https://ogi.oa.mo.gov/DHSS/warmingCenter/index.html or you can call the United Way Referral at 211.
  • Check on your neighbors, especially senior citizens and disabled adults. Make sure they are using adequate and safe heating sources. The state’s toll-free, adult abuse and neglect hotline can be used to report any elderly persons who may be suffering from extreme cold temperatures and need assistance. The number is 1-800-392-0210 and operates 365 days per year from 7 am to 12 am
  • If you do have to be outdoors, dress in several layers of loose-fitting, layered, lightweight clothing. The space between these layers works as insulation to help keep you warmer.

o   Wear something on your head and wear water repellent boots.

o   Protect your ears and face. Wear a scarf to help protect your lungs from cold air – it will also protect your ears and face.

o   Schedule outdoor activities during the warmest part of the day, usually 10 am to 3 pm.

o   Carry extra clothes with you such as socks, gloves, hats and jackets so you can change them if they get wet.

  • Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.

o   Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and pale or waxy white appearance of extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose.  Other signs may include numbness, a tingling or stinging sensation in the affected body part and reduced blood flow. If any of these symptoms are detected, please seek help immediately.

o   The warning signs of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. In infants, the skin will turn bright red and cold, and they may present with a very low energy level. If any of these signs appear get the victim to a warm location immediately and call 911 for immediate medical assistance.

  • Increase your fluid intake – regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink fluids. Avoid alcohol.

o   Ensure infants and children drink adequate amounts of liquids.

  • Medications can also increase the risk of temperature related illnesses. Some of these medications include antidepressants, antihistamines, heart medications, diuretics and chemotherapy drugs. Always consult with your doctor regarding the medications you are taking.
  • Make sure your car is properly winterized. Keep your gas tank filled. Prepare an emergency kit including blankets, a flashlight, waterproof matches, non-perishable foods, and water.
  • Ensure you have sufficient heating fuel, as well as alternative emergency heating equipment in case you lose electricity. When using alternative heating sources, such as a generator, a fireplace, wood stove or space heater, take necessary safety precautions:

o   Carbon Monoxide is odorless, colorless gas that can cause flu-like illness or death. Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen during extreme cold weather when individuals try warming their homes through unconventional methods.

o   Never heat your home with a gas stove, oven, kerosene heater or charcoal or propane barbecue grill.

o   Make sure all heating devices are properly ventilated and always operate a generator outdoors and at least 20 feet away from any window, door or vent in your home. Improper heating devices can lead to dangerous carbon monoxide buildup in the home.

o   Test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

o   Keep a fire extinguisher handy and ensure everyone knows how to use it properly.

o   Place anything that can burn easily at least three feet away from space heaters.

o   Do NOT run a car or truck inside a garage that is attached to your house, even if the door is open.

o   If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, call 911 immediately and get the victim to fresh air.

  • Limit outdoor time for your pets. They are also susceptible to the extreme cold temperatures.

For additional information regarding Extreme Cold Safety tips, visit http://health.mo.gov/living/healthcondiseases/hypothermia/index.php or contact your local health department.

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