Cold and Wind Chills are very Dangerous, Protect from Frostbite and Hypothermia

Submitted by Justin Gould on Fri, 01/12/2024 - 14:02

MAYVILLE, N.Y. – Winter weather is upon us and colder temperatures are predicted next week.  The Chautauqua County Health Department encourages residents to stay safe and offers tips to protect yourself in cold weather. 

“With our first larger-scale snowstorm anticipated this weekend and colder temperatures in the forecast, we want to remind residents to be prepared and take extra precautions,” states Public Health Director, Lacey Wilson. “Lows early next week are predicted to be in the single digits with wind gusts of up to 15 mph.  Staying warm and safe in these conditions can be a challenge, especially for those who primarily walk to get from place to place, are experiencing homelessness or are unable to easily get to a safe, warm place should they find themselves without heat.”

In colder temperatures, the body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced, putting people at risk for frostbite and hypothermia.  When weather is extremely cold, residents are encouraged to try to stay indoors and if they must go outside to dress appropriately.  Wear several layers of loose fitting clothing, a hat, scarf to cover your face and mouth, gloves and water resistant boots.  Nose, ears, toes, cheeks, chin and fingers are more likely to be affected by frostbite than other areas of the body so it’s important to cover these areas with warm, dry clothing.

Know who is at high risk.

  • Older adults with limited access to food, or without proper clothing or heat
  • People who stay outdoors for longer periods of time (e.g. homeless, hunters, hikers, etc.)
  • People who drink alcohol in excess or use illicit drugs
  • Babies sleeping in cold rooms

Frostbite victims are often unaware that they have frostbite because the frozen tissue is numb.  Signs and symptoms include:

  • Redness or pain in any skin area may be the first sign of frostbite
  • A white or grayish-yellow skin area
  • Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
  • Numbness

Hypothermia often occurs at very cold temperatures, but can occur at cool temperatures (above 40) if a person is wet from rain sweat or cold water and become chilled.

  • Adults may experience shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness.
  • Special attention should be directed towards infants as they typically have a more difficult time regulating body temperature.

If a person is experiencing symptoms of frostbite or hypothermia:

  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible
  • Get them into a warm room or shelter
  • Remove any wet clothing
  • Warm them under dry layers of blankets and clothing
  • Place areas affected by frostbite in warm-to-touch water

Emergency shelter:

When air temperatures are at or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, including National Weather Service calculations for wind-chill, the Department of Mental Hygiene and Social Services will provide emergency shelter.  During normal business hours, Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., those in need of emergency shelter should report to either the Dunkirk or Jamestown Social Services offices where they will receive emergency shelter placement.  After normal business hours, and during holidays*, contact police dispatch and select service providers are authorized by Social Services to guarantee payment to emergency shelter.  All law enforcement departments in Chautauqua County and the following agencies have been designated to guarantee payment for emergency shelter:

  • Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene
  • Chautauqua County Department of Social Services Child and Adult Protective Services
  • UPMC Chautauqua Hospital
  • Brooks Memorial Hospital
  • Chautauqua Opportunities, Inc. – Mobile Crisis Team
  • Mental Health Association

Dr. Mary Ann Spanos, Director of Chautauqua County Office for Aging Services suggests, “Check on your family or neighbors and find out how they're doing. Make sure they know what to do--and what not to do--to protect their health.” 

If you find yourself or someone else in an emergency situation, call 911.  If you are in need of information about services and supports in your area, call NY Connects at 716-753-4582.  

More information and precautions about cold weather can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/index.html.

About Chautauqua County Health Department - The Chautauqua County Health Department is the leading Public Health organization in Chautauqua County dedicated to the support of the community’s health.  The Health Department takes innovative approaches to provide technical assistance to partner organizations, and offers various programs and services in order to help prevent disease, protect the public’s health and promote our community’s overall health and wellness.  For more information visit www.HealthyCHQ.com.

* Please note Social Services offices will be closed on Monday, January 15th in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.


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