As the thermometer drops below zero residents in the area are reminded to stay safe this winter.
During the cold months in Wisconsin people need to remember just how dangerous the cold temperatures can be. The United States Department of Labor-Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website states that cold temperatures can lead to injuries such as hypothermia, frostbite and trench foot. The body's natural reaction when exposed to cold temperatures is to use its energy to keep the inside of the body warm.
When it is cold outside, Pierce County Sheriff Nancy Hove said it's important people are prepared for the cold weather.
"My biggest request for winter driving is that if you're out driving for any reason at all dress for the weather or at least have weather gear with you," Hove said.
During this cold weather Dr. Chris Tashjian, family medicine doctor at Vibrant Health Family Clinics in Ellsworth, said it is important for people to dress in layers and to make sure the outside layer is wind resistant. He also said to make sure to wear hats, insulated gloves, facemasks, and waterproof footwear.
"When it is very cold, or when the wind chill is significant cover as much exposed skin as possible," Tashjian said.
Whether going on a long trip or just a short way from home, Hove said dressing appropriately is always important.
"I have had people in accidents and stalled vehicles that are wearing flip flops or bedroom slippers," Hove said. "That does not keep your feet warm on a day like today [temperature about 0 degrees]. And most of these problems arise within 5 miles of home."
According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) website, all drivers should prepare their cars for winter driving. The DOT recommends people keep their gas tanks as full as possible to minimize condensation. They also recommend clearing all windows of frost and snow, driving with the headlights on, and keeping basic winter driving equipment (scraper, jumper cables, bag of sand or cat litter, road flares, blanket, heavy boots, warm clothing and a flashlight) in the car.
Even when temperatures are above freezing, Tashjian warned people still need to worry about damage the cold can cause.
"It doesn't have to be below freezing for someone to face hypothermia," Tashjian said. "There are so many factors that play into it—how long that you're outside, if there's a wind chill, if you're exposed to a wet cold (especially if you're out playing in the snow)."
Some people are more susceptible to hypothermia. These people include those with preexisting vascular conditions, the homeless, and the elderly.
Another worry with the cold is frostbite. According the OSHA website "frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing of the skin and underlying tissues." Ffrostbite is most common in extremities such as feet and hands.
Once frostbite occurs, people need to take precautions as they warm back up.
"To treat frostbite, soak the affected area in warm water no hotter than 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40 C) and wrap it in gauze," Tashjian said. "Keep any toes or fingers affected by frostbite separated from each other to avoid rubbing the areas against each other. Do not rub, use, or walk on frostbitten skin, as this can cause tissue damage."
If the problem persists for more than 30 minutes, the person should seek medical attention.
Besides dressing appropriately for the weather, Tashjian said there are other ways people can protect themselves from the cold, such as eating substantial meals regularly, drinking plenty of water, avoiding drinks with alcohol and caffeine, using lotion and lip balm to prevent dryness to skin and lips, and having extra clothes to change into in case other clothes get wet.
If a person does become cold, once the person is inside it is best to start warming up by first removing any damp or wet clothes. Tashjian said then the person should warm up the middle parts of their body (head, neck and chest) which can be done with a heating pad on low. Then a person should drink something warm (non-alcoholic) gradually to increase the core body temperature. Once a person starts to feel warm, he/she should continue to stay in a warm place.
"Even after you begin to feel warm again, stay dry and keep yourself wrapped up in a warm blanket," Tashjian said.
He added that drinking alcohol in the cold temperatures can be dangerous.
"Please avoid going outside after you have had alcoholic beverages," Tashjian said. "Alcohol will cause your veins to dilate and you will lose heat faster. Also, because of the effect of alcohol on your brain you may not appreciate the danger of the cold weather."