With sub-zero temps, people and animals need special attention

EAST LIVERPOOL- Temperatures in the Tri-State area are forecasted to sink to a bone-chilling negative 17 degrees by Monday of next week, followed by a slightly less brutal low of negative 3 on Tuesday. When temperatures get that cold, being outside in the elements for too long is dangerous for people and animals alike. The National Weather Service reported eight cold-related deaths in 2012, down from 29 in 2011.

Dr. Luke Joseph of East Liverpool City Hospital has dealt with his fair share of cold-related illness and injuries, including frostbite. When it comes to dressing for the cold, Joseph says common sense should prevail – the colder it is the more layers of warm clothing one should wear. He notes that people going out in the cold should not only layer their clothing but attempt to cover as much skin as possible, as prolonged exposure to the cold without proper clothing can result in hypothermia or frostbite.

Preparation is key when it comes to coping with the cold, says Joseph. He suggest motorist prepare an emergency kit for their vehicle in the event they are stranded in the cold. Essential items in the kit should include a winter jacket, blankets and a sleeping bag.

“You never know when you’re going to break down and how far away help is going to be,” said Joseph.

Shoveling snow is another activity that often lures people out into the cold. Joseph notes this seemingly innocuous chore can turn dangerous when you spend too much time outside or your clothes become wet. Wet clothes freeze quickly in the kind of sub-zero temperatures expected next week and frostbite can set in deceptively quick.

“Don’t spend a long time outside. Come in every hour or two and warm up,” said Joseph. “Once you stop having feeling in your extremities, you should go inside immediately.”

The warning signs of frostbite are numbness in the affected area as well as redness and swelling that may resemble a burn. Joseph says that if the affected area does not regain feeling after about 15 or 20 minutes of warming up, you should consider seeking medical attention.

Joseph warns that the elderly and people with chronic lung problems should be careful not to over exert themselves in cold temperatures. The National Weather Service’s statistics on cold-related fatalities confirms that the hardest hit age group is 40-69 year olds, accounting for 75 percent of deaths.

Of course humans are not the only ones who need to take special precautions when temperatures start to drop below zero. Pets are just as susceptible to the cold as their human counterparts says Lorrie Byo, director of the Hancock County Animal Shelter.

“Just because they have fur doesn’t mean they wont freeze to death,” said Byo.

Pets should not be exposed to the cold any longer than is necessary to trot outside and “do their business,” says Byo. Even if the pet is an “outside pet” you should at least allow them to stay in the garage or basement when temperatures drop into the single digits.

Unfortunately, Byo reported that dog wardens and humane officers were already busy responding to reports of animals left out in the cold by their owners this week.

“I’d encourage people if they aren’t comfortable with the way an animal is being treated during this cold spell, to call a humane officer so they can at least check up on it,” said Byo.

Jenny Pike of the Humane Society of Columbiana County echoed Byo’s concerns in a press release issued on Friday. Pike reminded outdoor pet owners that in typical winter temperatures pets require more food to produce body heat and water dishes need checked regularly to keep them from freezing over.

Pike also emphasized the need for a good shelter from the elements and the importance of using straw instead of cloth inside of those shelters for bedding. She explained that straw provides better insulation and will not freeze into a hard slab the way cloth will. Still, when temperatures reach dangerous lows as they will Monday and Tuesday, Pike, like Byo, advised that the best course of action was to bring animals inside.