Monday, December 18, 2017

As Oklahomans prepare for a blast of wintery weather, local medical and safety experts are offering their tips for staying safe when the temperature drops.  

Norman Regional Health System is home to three emergency departments and also operates EMSSTAT, the ambulance provider for the cities of Moore and Norman. When winter weather strikes, emergency personnel see a variety of injuries related to ice, snow and cold conditions.

“The most common thing we see is orthopedic injuries due to falls on the ice,” said Dr. Patrick Cody, emergency medicine physician. Dr. Cody is the medical director for both EMSSTAT and the emergency medicine residency program at Norman Regional Health System.

To avoid falling make sure to:

  • Avoid rushing or taking shortcuts where snow or ice removal is incomplete
  • Select appropriate footwear such as flat shoes with rubber soles instead of leather-soled or high-heeled shoes
  • Use handrails where you can
  • Take small steps to keep your center of balance under you

Carbon Monoxide Dangers

“We sometimes see people exposed to carbon monoxide so we recommend folks have their heaters professionally maintained to make sure they are in good working order,” Dr. Cody said.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness and other neurological symptoms

“Clues to carbon monoxide exposure can be multiple members of a household with similar symptoms or symptoms that resolve when you go outside” Dr. Cody said.

If you are concerned about carbon monoxide in your home, evacuate the home and call your local fire department, which can monitor the house for the dangerous gas.

Safe Travel Tips

People are often injured by driving in dangerous conditions. If at all possible, try and stay off the roads during hazardous weather, said Eddie Sims, paramedic and manager of EMSSTAT.

“When the temperature first drops below freezing the roads may look wet but elevated surfaces may have frozen and become very slick,” Sims said. “If you must get out: slow down, and leave extra distance between your car and the one in front of you.”

Remember to allow for extra time and extra fuel if you need to drive somewhere in bad road conditions.

Since a hospital never closes its doors, employees at Norman Regional are prepped on how to safely drive in conditions such as ice and snow. Staff members are encouraged to pack the following items in their car during severe winter weather:

  • Blankets
  • Non-perishable, high-energy foods such as granola bars
  • Bottled water
  • A brightly colored flag or cloth to tie to a car’s antenna as a distress signal

Always remember if you get stranded it is still safest to remain with your vehicle until you are rescued.

Extreme Cold

Prolonged exposure to the cold can cause frostbite and hypothermia. Infants and the elderly are most susceptible to extreme cold, so please check on elderly friends, relatives or neighbors who live alone.

The following tips can help keep you safe in extreme cold:

  • Wear layered clothing outdoors. Wear a hat to prevent rapid heat loss from an uncovered head.
  • While indoors, try to keep at least one room heated to 70 F. This is especially important for the elderly and small children.
  • Avoid fatigue and exhaustion during cold weather. Overexertion such as shoveling snow or pushing a car, can strain your heart.