Tonawanda News

January 23, 2013

Health officials advise caution

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Area health officials reached out on Tuesday to warn residents to stay warm as the mercury plummets this week.

Erie County Department of Health Commissioner Gale Burstein said everyone — the very old and very young in particular— can face potentially life threatening injury from such severe cold.

“When winter temperatures drop significantly below normal, staying warm and safe can become a challenge,” Burstein said. “Exposure to cold temperatures, whether indoors or outside, can cause other serious or life-threatening health problems. Infants and the elderly are particularly at risk, but anyone can be affected.”

To prevent cold-related ailments, she said limiting exposure to the outdoors, wearing multiple layers of clothing (including a wind-resistant outer layer), and staying dry are key components to staying safe.

In addition to the usual concerns about slippery stairs and sidewalks, she also issued cautionary advice for those with heart conditions, as chilly temperatures tax the vital organ.

”Cold weather puts an extra strain on the heart,” she said. “If you have heart disease or high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s advice about shoveling snow or performing other hard work in the cold.”

Other health warnings related to the cold came from Kenmore Mercy Hospital, where Dr. Michael S. Gough said those with lung conditions must also avoid the extreme cold.

“These cold snaps lead to an increase in wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath that can be frightening and sometimes even dangerous to individuals with respiratory diseases such as COPD or sever asthma,” he said. 

He said such individuals, along with the public at large, should avoid prolonged exposure to the cold, as well as several other tips:

• Keep a stock of medications so you don’t have to go out during very cold weather.

• Wear several layers and warmer clothing, even at night.

• Cover your mouth with a scarf.

• Keep your home well ventilated.