Everyone deserves to be warm, safe and happy during the winter season. However, it is important to be aware that extreme cold weather conditions can be dangerous and even harm our health.
Lowered Blood Circulation
Cold temperatures cause our blood vessels to constrict. As a result, our blood circulation becomes poor which limits the availability of oxygen to many parts of the body. Your heart then has to work extra hard to pump blood. This, in turn, may increase your blood pressure, heart rate and also the risk of a heart attack.
Prolonged exposure to cold weather may lead to a condition called hypothermia. The body loses heat faster than it is generated. Your temperature may drop to abnormal levels.
Hypothermia can affect brain functioning, making it difficult to think or move. Symptoms include confusion, memory loss, exhaustion, shivering and slurred speech.
Extreme cold can freeze the skin and underlying tissue, resulting in a condition known as frostbite. In the early stages (i.e. frostnip) there is no permanent damage. Individuals will sense their skin feeling cold along with a pricking sensation. They may also experience numbness, discoloration and inflammation.
In the case of advanced or severe frostbite, the skin and underlying tissues are permanently damaged.
Pre-Existing Health Conditions
Cold weather may worsen pre-existing health conditions.
Asthma sufferers will experience shortness of breath, wheezing and asthma attacks more often due to the tightening and constriction of their airways.
Diabetes patients may feel weak or dizzy. Cold weather causes blood circulation changes. Blood sugar levels then become erratic.
People with arthritis tend to experience more joint pain, although the medical reason for this is not clear.
Cancer patients may experience greater complications from the common cold and flu virus.
Major drops in body temperature are especially risky for older adults who usually don’t have much body fat younger children who are smaller and lose heat more easily disabled men and women who tend to face a higher risk for hypothermia
During the colder months, it is important to be mindful of the indoor heating needs required by these individuals.
Don't Forget Our Pets
According to veterinarians, if you feel it is too cold for you, it is also too cold for your pets. Many people believe that just because animals have fur, they are perfectly okay in cold weather. However, this is a complete myth. Like us, animals can also suffer from hypothermia and frostbite.
Here are several tips and reminders to help keep your animal friends safe and healthy during the winter months.
- Do not leave your pets outside in the cold weather for prolonged periods of time. Keep your cats, dogs, rabbits etc. indoors
- Give your pets warm bedding, blankets, straw etc. Make sure they sleep away from drafts.
- Provide sweaters, jackets and footwear as necessary
- Clean your dog’s paws after they have been out in the snow to remove harsh chemicals, salt and ice stuck on their fur.
- Extreme cold is not only uncomfortable, but these temperatures can also have a negative impact on our health. Be sure to educate yourself on the risks for both humans and animals to prevent problems, illness and injuries.