Health officials offer winter safety tips

Health officials offer winter safety tips
The state Health Department is reminding�South Dakotans�to take precautions to protect their health and safety during winter's severe weather.�

Heat Your Home Safely

Be extremely careful when using wood stoves, fireplaces, or space heaters to reduce the risk of�fire and prevent carbon monoxide poisioning. In addition to following the manufacturer's instructions, remember these safety tips:

? Use fireplace, wood stoves, or other combustion heaters only if they are properly vented to the outside and do not leak flue gas into the indoor air space.��

? Do not burn paper in a fireplace.��

? Do not place a space heater within three feet of anything that may catch on fire, such as drapes, furniture, or bedding, and never cover your space heater.��

? Never leave children unattended near a space heater.��

? Avoid using extension cords to plug in your space heater.�If your space heater has a damaged electrical cord or produces sparks, do not use it.��

? Protect yourself from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning by installing a battery-operated CO detector and never using generators, fuel-fired space heaters, grills, camp stoves, or similar devices indoors.�

Dress Warmly and Stay Dry When Outside�

If you must go outside, wear a hat, a scarf or knit mask to cover face and mouth, mittens, water-resistant coat and boots, and several layers of loose-fitting clothing.�

Outer layers should be tightly woven and wind resistant to reduce body-heat loss caused by wind. Wool, silk, or polypropylene inner layers of clothing will hold more body heat than cotton. Stay dry � wet clothing chills the body rapidly. Excess perspiration increases heat loss, so remove extra layers of clothing when you feel too warm. Do not ignore shivering. It's an important first sign that the body is losing heat. Persistent shivering is a signal to return indoors.

Avoid Exertion

Cold weather puts an extra strain on the heart. If you have heart disease or high blood pressure, follow your doctor's advice about shoveling snow or performing other hard work in the cold. Remember, your body is already working hard just to stay warm, so don't overdo it.

Frostbite

Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. Frostbite can permanently damage the body, and severe cases can lead to amputation. The risk of frostbite is increased in people with reduced blood circulation and among people who are not dressed properly for extremely cold temperatures.

At the first signs of redness or pain in any skin area, get out of the cold or protect any exposed skin � frostbite may be beginning. Any of the following signs may indicate frostbite:

? a white or grayish-yellow skin area.��

? skin that feels unusually firm or waxy.��

? numbness�

A victim is often unaware of frostbite until someone else points it out because the frozen tissues are numb. If you detect symptoms of frostbite, seek medical care.�

? Get into a warm room as soon as possible.��

? Unless absolutely necessary, do not walk on frostbitten feet or toes � this increases the damage.��

? Immerse the affected area in warm � not hot � water (the temperature should be comfortable to the touch for unaffected parts of the body).��

? Or, warm the affected area using body heat. For example, the heat of an armpit can be used to warm frostbitten fingers.��

? Do not rub the frostbitten area with snow or massage it at all. This can cause more damage.��

? Don't use a heating pad, heat lamp, or the heat of a stove, fireplace, or radiator for warming. Affected areas are numb and can be easily burned.�

Avoid downed power lines and be careful when using mechanical snow blowers.

For more information about extreme weather emergencies, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site at http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/guide.asp.�

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