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Wolf Administration Urges Pennsylvanians to Prepare for Health Impacts from Winter Weather and Extreme Cold Temperatures

12/21/2020

Harrisburg, PA - The Wolf Administration today urged Pennsylvanians to prepare for the health impacts that winter weather and extreme cold temperatures can have on their bodies.

“Today is the first day of winter, and Pennsylvanians have already seen temperatures below freezing and measurable snow fall,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “As the weather trends colder and we move to more indoor activities, we can expect an increase in the number of people with respiratory illnesses. Historically, we see increased cases of the flu in the winter, but this year, we remain concerned about the continued increase of COVID-19 cases.”

This winter will be unlike any we have ever experienced with the ongoing pandemic and can be stressful for many people. Feeling emotional and nervous or having trouble sleeping or eating can all be normal reactions to stress. It is important to remember that it is okay to not be okay. Healthy ways to cope with stress include: 

  • Taking care of yourself by eating healthy, well-balanced meals, exercising regularly, getting plenty of sleep and giving yourself breaks;
  • Talking to others about how you feel;
  • Avoiding drugs and alcohol;
  • Taking breaks from items causing you stress, such as the news and social media; and
  • Recognizing when you need professional help.

Being active during the winter has a number of health benefits. A few ways to be active this winter include online fitness classes from home with friends and family, walking and working out at home.

“Being exposed to extreme cold temperatures can also lead to additional health risks, Secretary Levine said. “Given the unprecedented health concerns going into this winter, it is important to get prepared now. I encourage everyone to follow mitigation efforts, be aware of your stress levels, remain active and take steps to eat healthy, balanced meals.”

Wintertime in Pennsylvania often features snow, blizzards, freezing rain, sleet, ice storms, blustery winds and frigid temperatures.

“Winter weather can change quickly in Pennsylvania, so it’s important to know what you might see when you walk outside in winter,” said PEMA Director Randy Padfield. “Identify your local trusted weather source now, and check your local forecast frequently, since a small shift in the direction of a storm can significantly change the hazards in your community.”

The most common cold-related problems are hypothermia and frostbite. Try to stay indoors as much as possible, but if you go outside:

  • Make outdoor trips brief and dress warm 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 make sure that those younger 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 extremely cold weather.

For more information on how to deal with the winter weather and extreme cold temperatures, visit www.health.pa.gov or follow the Department of Health on Facebook and Twitter.

MEDIA CONTACTS:  April Hutcheson, DOH - RA-DHpressoffice@pa.gov,

Ruth Miller, PEMA - ruthmiller@pa.gov 

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