Take steps to prevent hypothermia

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Do you know the symptoms of hypothermia? They include shivering, slurred speech, confusion and drowsiness.

Prevent hypothermia before it sets in by following some expert advice.

Mark Cichon, an emergency physician and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Loyola University Chicago, recommends wearing a winter hat and protecting your hands with mittens or gloves to help keep body heat from escaping. And don’t forget to wear boots.

“You can always take layers off and put layers on, which will help maintain temperature,” Cichon said. “You don’t have to have a single, really heavy coat on when you can put on different layers to maintain the integrity of the warmth that you’re producing around you.”

Other ways you can prepare your body for frigid temperatures include making sure you’re hydrated and well-rested, says Gary Zimmer, a Conshohocken, PA-based doctor and member of the American College of Emergency Physicians. And eat a hearty meal: The body uses more calories when it’s cold.

Avoid smoking and alcohol use, which can hinder blood circulation.

The kid factor

How can you make sure kids stay warm and safe? The Mayo Clinic recommends the following:

  • Dress infants and young children in one more layer than an adult would wear in the same conditions.
  • Bring children indoors if they start to shiver.
  • Make children take frequent breaks and warm up inside when they’re playing in cold temperatures.
  • Don’t put babies to sleep in a cold room.

The clinic wants you to remember the acronym COLD:
COVER: Wear a hat and mittens.
OVEREXERTION: Avoid activities that cause you to excessively sweat. The combination of wet clothing and cold weather can make you lose body heat more quickly.
LAYERS: Wear loose-fitting, layered, lightweight clothing. Outer clothing made of tightly woven, water-repellent material is optimal for wind protection. Wool, silk or polypropylene inner layers hold body heat better than cotton.
DRY: Stay as dry as possible and remove wet clothing as soon as you can. Try to keep your hands and feet dry, as snow can easily get into mittens and boots.

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