The Los Angeles County health officer Sunday issued a cold weather alert through Thursday for the Antelope Valley and mountain areas due to wind-chill temperatures expected to dip below 32 degrees.
"Children, the elderly, and people with disabilities or special medical needs are especially vulnerable during cold weather. Extra precaution should be taken to ensure they don't get too cold when they are outside," said Dr. Muntu Davis. "There are places where people can go to stay warm, such as shelters or other public facilities. We also want to remind people not to use stoves, barbeques or ovens to heat their homes due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning."
County health officials recommend the following precautions to protect yourself from the cold:
- Dress in layers of warm clothing if you plan to be outdoors.
- Protect head, hands and feet from the cold by wearing a hat, scarf, gloves, and socks.
- Check frequently on and help family members, friends and neighbors with limited mobility and limited access to heat, such as seniors or those who are ill.
- If you have pets, bring them indoors and do not leave them outside
- Take shelter during peak cold times.
- If you don't have a heater in your home, visit indoor public facilities such as shopping malls, libraries or senior centers.
The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority has a Winter Shelter Program available for those who need shelter. Locations and transportation information are online at www.lahsa.org/or by calling the LA County Information line at 2-1-1 from any landline or cell phone.
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People exposed to cold weather for prolonged periods can lose body heat and develop hypothermia. Symptoms vary depending on how long someone is exposed to cold temperatures, but early signs include shivering, fatigue, loss of coordination, and confusion and disorientation. Late symptoms of hypothermia include no shivering, blue skin, dilated pupils, slowed pulse and breathing, and loss of consciousness.
People exposed to extremely cold weather conditions may be at risk of frostbite, a bodily injury caused by freezing that results in loss of feeling and color in affected areas. The most common affected areas are the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes. Gently warm the person and seek immediate medical care if you believe someone is showing signs of hypothermia or frostbite.
To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning when heating a home:
- Only use approved heaters, such as electric or natural gas heaters and fireplaces. Never use stoves, barbecues and ovens to heat your room or home, as these appliances can produce a deadly gas known as carbon monoxide that can collect inside your home.
- Install a carbon monoxide detector in your home to reduce the risk of poisoning.
- If you use an outdoor generator at home, place it at least 10 feet
away from all doors and windows to avoid exhaust gases entering the home.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause shortness of breath, headaches, muscle and joint pain, and nausea. Exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide could lead to death within minutes. Those suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning should be taken outside, into fresh air, immediately, and should be taken to an emergency room for immediate medical treatment.