Some parts of the country are accustomed to frigid conditions in the winter. But even the most winter hardy are being challenged recently as a deep freeze has descended upon us.
And in areas that don't usually get hit with Arctic blasts, it's important that folks get up to speed and learn how to keep themselves safe and warm.
It is possible to get so cold that it becomes dangerous. Being too cold for too long can use up your body's stored energy and hypothermia can be the result.
You don't have to be outside to experience hypothermia. Being inside with inadequate heat, or if your furnace is off due to a power outage can also lead to hypothermia.
Some signs of hypothermia are cold feet and hands, pale skin, and puffiness or swelling in the face.
Are you shivering? Is your speech slow or slurring?
Do you feel confused, or angry for no reason? Are you uncharacteristically sleepy? You may be experiencing the early stages of hypothermia.
If the early signs are missed, the later more extreme signs can appear. Are you having trouble moving or walking? Are your movements jerky or stiff?
Your heart beat may slow. Your breathing may become slower or shallow. You may move in and out of consciousness, or become unconscious.
Usually hypothermia occurs in intensely cold temperatures. However, if you're chilled, e.g., from being in the rain, or in cold water, or from sweat, hypothermia can develop even in temperatures that are higher than 40 degrees F.
You might be surprised to learn that older people can lose body heat faster than younger folks. When the body temperature of an older adult gets lower than 95 degrees F, heart attack, problems with kidneys and liver can result. When not dealt with quickly, the damage can become even worse.
Those who are most vulnerable to hypothermia are elderly people in a situation where they are not warm enough due to lack of warm clothing, lack of sufficient food or inadequate heating. Babies that are left to sleep in cold bedrooms may be prone to hypothermia.
People who have been out in bad weather for too long may get hypothermia, such as hikers or hunters, or people who are homeless.