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How to Stay Safe in the Polar Air: Think 'COLD'

Advocate Condell Medical Center offers tips on dealing with the extreme cold.

How can you stay safe in this extreme cold?
How can you stay safe in this extreme cold?

With round two of polar air blanketing Illinois, Advocate Condell Medical Center urges residents of Lake County to be safe and follow these simple tips when dealing with the extreme cold.

“If you don’t have to be outside, obviously, you should stay indoors,” says Dr. Kendra Hall, an Emergency Medicine physician at Advocate Condell. “But the reality is people need to go outside, whether it’s to run to the store or head to work.”

Dr. Hall advises all residents to limit the amount of exposure to the cold. “One of the most important things people can do in weather like this is to limit the amount of time they’re exposed to it,” says Dr. Hall. “Try not to be outside any longer than 20 minutes. Any longer, and you risk frostbite.”

When dressing for the cold weather, Dr. Hall recommends conserving your natural body heat by following the acronym COLD: 

C—Cover yourself completely. Limit the amount of skin exposed to the elements. Make certain to cover your head, face, neck and hands, where most of your body heat can escape.

O—Overexertion can be dangerous. When you do too much, your body heats up, naturally sweating to cool itself down. This added wetness can be extremely dangerous in low wind chills, adding to the risk of frostbite and hypothermia. 

L—Layer your clothing. Thermal underwear is always a good choice, as are sweaters and double layers of heavy socks. For outer layers, make certain you wear a heavy material, such as wool or down.

D—Dryness is extremely important. If your head or feet get wet, your body will lose its natural heat much faster. Layers help to protect against wetness, as you can remove a top layer if it gets wet to avoid soaking through to the clothing nearest your body.

“If you notice any areas of your skin that have changed color—white, gray or yellow—you may have frostbite,” Dr. Hall says. “The majority of frostbite can be successfully treated when caught in time, so get to your doctor immediately.” 

—Submitted by Advocate Condell Medical Center. 

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