Hypothermia can set in quickly if you’re not careful in this bitter cold

HOUSTON – Frigid temperatures are sweeping across the country. Local health experts said the cold weather can cause your body to lose heat faster than it can produce it.

“Hypothermia and cold temperatures go parallel and there is definitely some danger associated with them,” said Dr. Ambica Sandhir, an ER Physician at St. Luke’s Health-Patients Medical Center.

“I think people need to understand that Houston is not prepared for this. Houston is not prepared, and Houstonians are not prepared,” said Dr. Joseph Varon with United Memorial Medical Center.

Dr. Salil Bhandari, an ER Physician with UT Health and Memorial Hermann, said if you are out in the cold too long your body will start to shiver, and things will slow down.

“Your heart can start to slow down; your breathing starts to slow and eventually you start getting lethargic and confused,” he said.

Varon said drinking alcohol to stay warm is a myth and he is prepared to treat people who’ve been exposed to cold temperatures.

“That actually makes things worse because you get even colder. I’m expecting that we are going to have an influx of patients with hypothermia and I have protocols in the hospital the moment these people start coming in,” Varon said.

The cold weather also poses a threat to pets. A deputy with Constable Mark Herman’s Office rescued a dog that was left in the cold. The owner is facing animal cruelty charges.

Sandhir said check on your neighbors who are elderly, bundle up if you go outside and keep your clothes dry.

“Make sure you have gloves on. Make sure you have a hat on, wear a scarf, cover areas that are most exposed that you don’t always think about earmuffs,” she said.

The Mayo Clinic lists these as the primary warning signs of hypothermia:

▪ Shivering

▪ Slurred speech or mumbling

▪ Slow, shallow breathing

▪ Weak pulse

▪ Clumsiness/lack of coordination

▪ Drowsiness or very low energy

▪ Confusion or memory loss

▪ Loss of consciousness

▪ Bright red, cold skin (in infants)

If you suspect someone is suffering from hypothermia, you must seek emergency medical help. The Mayo Clinic recommends gently moving the person indoors, if possible, without making any jarring movements which could cause heart issues. You should also carefully remove any cold, wet clothing and replace them with dry coats or blankets.

The Mayo Clinic also lists the risk factors that make people more susceptible to hypothermia. You’ll find that here.