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Doctors Warn of Possible Cold Weather Injuries

By Natalie Potts
By npotts@wbbjtv.com

JACKSON, Tenn.- Doctors say the pending cold weather across West Tennessee will not just be uncomfortable, but dangerous.

Area doctors told WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News that extreme cold weather injuries can range from broken bones from falls on ice, to frost bite even hypothermia. They said the extreme weather is especially dangerous for small children and elderly who sometimes have trouble regulating their body temperature.

"A lot of people actually come in with carbon monoxide poisoning from trying to heat up their shelter with something that produces carbon monoxide," said Dr. David Jones, JMC General Hospital. "That can be a lot more dangerous even than hypothermia so there are a lot of ways the cold can get you these days. This time of year is always a busy time in the emergency room, whenever it snows it seems like there are several people coming in that have slipped on ice or stairs."

Doctor Jones said frost bite is the freezing of your skin after long exposure in temperatures that are well below freezing. He said when your body experiences extreme cold, your blood flow will naturally move to warm up vital organs, leaving less warm blood flow to your extremities such as cheeks, nose, ears, feet and hands.

"First thing is pain and numbness...tingling in the extremities feels like everything is going to sleep especially in your toes and fingers," said Dr. Jones. "Sometimes in your ears and nose...these are the first signs of a problem that you need to warm those extremities up."

Experts said one of the most serious health risks to elderly is hypothermia. Doctors said for patients who already have diabetes or cardiovascular problems, the extreme cold could also put stress on their heart.

" It takes only 30 to 45 minutes, that is the period of time you have before you begin to feel the effects of a temperatures that low and of course the lower you go reading wise, you're going to have the effects sooner than that," said Dr. John Michael Briley, Doctor of Nursing Practice. " Any stresser as we know on a heart or cardiovascular system that's already stressed is going to be a problem. If you are going to be stuck out dealing with the very cold temperatures that we are expected to have in Jackson this weekend, it could put stress on your heart."

Doctors said if you feel any symptoms, it is important to slowly warm up your body with blankets or warm water. If you have frostbite they say you should not rub your skin, or partially warm then re-freeze it so that you avoid causing serious nerve and skin damage.




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