HARRISBURG, Pa., Feb. 12, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania officials are urging everyone to take extra precautions in the coming days to prevent serious health issues as an arctic front is poised to bring frigid temperatures and dangerous wind chills of up to -30 degrees to some areas of the commonwealth beginning Friday and lasting throughout the weekend.
"My advice to Pennsylvanians is to stay home if at all possible and don't risk the serious or life-threatening health problems that can occur in just 30 minutes or less if skin is exposed to these hazardous temperatures," said Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy. "Lower than normal temperatures and higher wind speeds, such as those we're expecting this weekend, can cause heat to leave your body more quickly than normal and result in severe health issues."
The most common cold-related problems are hypothermia and frostbite. Try to stay indoors as much as possible, but if you must go outside:
- Make outdoor trips brief and dress warmly in layers;
- Cover your ears, head, mouth and face;
- Never ignore shivering – it's your body's way of saying you're losing heat and it's time to return indoors;
- Know the symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite:
- Hypothermia causes shivering, exhaustion, confusion, memory loss, slurred speech or drowsiness in adults and bright red, cold skin and very low energy in babies.
- Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas, and symptoms include a white or grayish-yellow area of skin, numbness or skin that feels unusually firm or waxy.
- Seek medical attention if it is suspected that you or your loved ones have hypothermia or frostbite.
Infants and older Pennsylvanians are at greater risk of serious cold-related health issues and should be checked frequently to ensure they are warm enough during cold weather.
- Provide warm clothing for infants, and ensure that those less than 1 year old never sleep in a cold room, because they lose body heat more easily than adults and are unable to make enough body heat by shivering.
- Older adults often make less body heat because of a slower metabolism and less physical activity. If you are over 65 years of age, check the temperature in your home often during severely cold weather.
"Recognizing that extreme cold temperatures can permanently injure or cause death, it's important to check on our elderly neighbors to ensure that they have adequate heat and power," said Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne. "During this arctic blast, a quick check-in with your elderly family members and neighbors can make big difference and may even save a life."
Pennsylvania renters and homeowners who are financially eligible can request crisis or regular Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) grants to help pay energy bills through April 1, 2016. LIHEAP offers assistance in the form of a cash grant sent directly to the utility company or a crisis grant for households in immediate danger of being without heat. Cash grants are based on household income, family size, type of heating fuel and region. LIHEAP also provides funds to repair heating equipment.
"We know winter can be an especially difficult time for the commonwealth's most vulnerable residents, including older Pennsylvanians, children and individuals with a disability," said Department of Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas. "We want all Pennsylvanians to stay warm through these cold days."
People can apply for LIHEAP and other DHS assistance at www.compass.state.pa.us. Paper applications are available at local county assistance offices or by downloading and printing applications from the DHS website. For helpful tips on keeping warm throughout the winter while saving money on utility costs, visit www.energysavers.gov.
Visit the Department of Health's website for more cold-weather tips at www.health.pa.gov.
MEDIA CONTACTS: Penny Ickes, DOH, 717-787-1783
Kirstin Snow, Aging, 717-787-3368
Rachel Kostelac, DHS, 717-425-7606
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Health; Pennsylvania Department of Aging; Pennsylvania Department of Human Services