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Kathy Oesch, Goshen, adjusts her hat as she walks along Main Street in Goshen Dec. 9, 2011. Temperatures are expected to dip later this weekend. (Truth Photo By J. Tyler Klassen) (AP)
Cold weather prompts public health advisory

Posted on Jan. 18, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on Jan. 19, 2013 at 1:09 p.m.

ELKHART — With wind chill temperatures expected to drop below zero for the next three days, a public health advisory has been issued for Elkhart County.

Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures could cause serious health problems, according to the Elkhart County Health Department. The health department suggests taking the following precautions to avoid cold-related illness and injury:

Ÿ Heat your home safely during power failures. Never use a gas or charcoal grill indoors because fumes can be deadly.

Ÿ Never leave burning candles unattended.

Ÿ Keep extra blankets, flashlights with batteries, matches, a manual can opener and a first aid kit on hand.

Ÿ Monitor indoor temperatures. Infants and people older than 65 are more sensitive to the cold. If you are not able to keep your home warm, make arrangements to stay with family or friends.

Ÿ Dress warmly when going outside. Maintain body heat by dressing in layers, including wearing a hat, mittens or gloves and a scarf or knit mask to cover your face including your mouth.

Ÿ Avoid being outside for prolonged periods.

Frostbite and hypothermia are among the life-threatening health problems that could develop as a result of extended exposure to cold temperatures. Frostbite is an injury caused by the body freezing. Symptoms include numbness in the face, hands and feet. Skin may become white, grayish-yellow or red in some areas. Hypothermia happens when the body loses heat faster than it can produce warmth. Warning signs include an abnormally low body temperature, shivering, exhaustion, confusion, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness. Anyone who has frostbite or hypothermia should seek medical attention, according to the county health department.

When medical care is not immediately available, the health department suggests:

Ÿ Moving to a warm room or shelter

Ÿ Removing any wet clothing

Ÿ Warming the center of the body first by using an electric blanket or blankets warmed in a dryer.

Ÿ Drinking warm, non-alcoholic beverages.

Ÿ When the body temperature has increased, keep dry and wrapped in a warm blanket, including the neck and head.

Ÿ Get medical attention as soon as possible.

The county health department also reminds pet owners to keep their animals inside or provide adequate shelter to keep them warm.