Doctors warn of hypothermia risk in arctic blast - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Doctors warn of hypothermia risk in arctic blast

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As the region remains locked in a deep freeze, hypothermia is a growing concern.

Two people in the Midwest recently died.

Hospitals all over Northwest Ohio report there are no cases of people suffering from hypothermia in the emergency rooms, but doctors warn the bitter cold can be deadly. Hypothermia only takes minutes to shut down your body.

"I live on Catawba right on the water, my channel is frozen right now and it's beautiful," says Jean Dietz as she loads her grocery bags into her car in Port Clinton.

Dietz doesn't mind braving the bitterly cold air, but ER doctors say it could cause serious health problems.

"It's very deadly, especially if the temperatures in the body drop, you can actually die quite quickly from this," says Dr. Trent Peppard, an ER physician at Mercy Saint Vincent Medical Center.

Two people in the Midwest died from hypothermia and cold exposure over the weekend. One was a 70-year old man in Des Plaines, Illinois. The other was a 38-year old man in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Dr. Peppard says the people most at risk for hypothermia in the dangerously low temperatures are the homeless, people with psychiatric illnesses, the elderly, and alcoholics.

Dr. Peppard says alcohol makes you think you're warmer than you actually are.

"Alcohol has an effect on the mentation of the patient so they will be altered," says Dr. Peppard. "They won't be paying attention to the symptoms."

The doctor says it's best to stay inside where it's warm, but bundle up if you have to be outside. That message is especially important for runners.

"Basically when you're sweating you become damp and so you want to make sure that also when you're sweating you lose core temperature so stay dry and appropriate dress is the key," says Dr. Peppard.

"I wish I could run," says Dietz. "I used to walk all the time in the cold. It didn't bother me. It's just that my hip now does so I can't do it. I would if I could."

Doctors say children and the elderly are the most susceptible to hypothermia. People can get that from staying in the cold too long, falling into water, and inadequately heating your home.

Symptoms include shivering, slurred speech, confusion, and slow, heavy breathing.

If someone around you has these symptoms make sure to monitor their breathing, remove any wet clothes, cover the person with blankets, and give them warm beverages.

Also, doctors say you should not apply heat, such as hot water or a heating pad, directly to the skin.

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