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It's easy to get cold quickly if you are
wet, windy, or cold weather. Cold temperature exposure can also happen if you
spend time in a dwelling or other building that is not well heated during cold
There are many
factors that increase your risk of injury from exposure to cold
Many people get cold hands or feet, which often are
bothersome but not a serious health problem. You are more likely to feel cold
easily if you:
If you have already been exposed to the cold,
first aid measures can warm you up and may even save your life.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The
problem probably will not get better without medical care.
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be
able to take care of this problem at home.
Pain in adults and older children
Cold injury to the skin may
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind
of care you may need. These include:
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
Early symptoms of hypothermia may
Based on your answers, you need
Call911or other emergency services now.
Some people's skin is very sensitive to cold temperatures and reacts abnormally. For example:
Low body temperature means:
Symptoms of severe hypothermia may
Most minor cold injuries will heal
on their own, and home treatment is usually all that is needed to relieve your
symptoms and promote healing. But if you think you may have a more severe
cold injury, use first aid measures while you arrange for an evaluation by your
doctor. These first aid measures can also be used for children. Be sure to warm
the child's whole body with blankets as well as the cold injured parts.
Frostbitten skin may be more sensitive after the cold injury.
The injured skin area should be protected with sunscreen and protective
clothing to prevent further skin damage. The color of the injured skin may also
change over time.
Apply aloe vera or another moisturizer, such as
Lubriderm or Keri lotion, to windburned skin. Reapply often. There is little
you can do to stop skin from peeling after a windburn—it is part of the healing
process—but home treatment may make your skin feel better.
nonprescription artificial tears warmed to body temperature to moisturize and
soothe eyes that are cold, sore, or dry from exposure to cold or wind.
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and
forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two
medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home
Many cold injuries can be prevented by
protecting yourself when you are outdoors in cold weather.
Children may not be
aware of cold temperatures. Parents need to understand the
ways in which the body loses heat and:
Older or less active people can prevent indoor
dressing warmly while indoors and keeping room
temperatures above 65 °F (18 °C).
Be aware that some states fund programs to help low-income
families add insulation or "weatherize" their homes to keep the family warm. Also, some low-income families may qualify for help in paying their heating
bills. Contact your state or local energy agency or the local power or gas
company for more information.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your
doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the
April 15, 2013
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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