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news News Wednesday, January 3, 2018 Wednesday, January 3, 2018 1:54 PM - Wednesday, January 3, 2018 1:54 PM

Staying safe in brutally cold temperatures

Tips to prevent fires, frostbite and burns

Staying safe in brutally cold temperatures

Brutally cold temperatures are impacting a huge part of the country and it is only going to get colder into the weekend. Temperatures well below freezing with wind chills below zero, possible power outages and an increased use of fireplaces and space heaters are all dangerous factors that can contribute to frostbite, house fires and serious burn injuries. Here are some tips to stay safe in the days ahead and all winter long.

  1. When temperatures drop, keep in mind that infants and elderly adults (65+) are particularly susceptible to cold-related illnesses. Make sure that infants never sleep in a cold room, and check on your elderly neighbors often to make sure that their homes are being kept heated.
  2. Numbness in fingers or toes can be a precursor to frostbite. If you or your family are playing outside and your fingers feel numb, tuck them under your armpits to warm them up. If you do get frostbite, it’s important to know that massaging potentially frostbitten fingers and toes, or putting them in hot water can actually cause more damage. Only soak frostbitten fingers and toes in warm water and resist the urge to rub them.
  3. Wear a hat to avoid losing 10 percent of your body heat through your head! Bundle up your face, head and chest, as those areas are particularly sensitive to the temperature.
  4. If anyone ever has a body temperature lower than 95°F (35°C) seek emergency assistance immediately. A person exhibiting signs of hypothermia may have a very weak pulse or appear not to be breathing, so handle the victim carefully and call 911.
  5. While candles are an easy substitute if the lights go out, they can be dangerous, and it’s important to make sure to keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children. Candles should be kept somewhere safe and should always be at least 12 inches away from anything flammable. One third of all candle fires are started in the bedroom, so make sure that you don’t fall asleep before blowing your candles out, or consider using flameless candles.
  6. Though space heaters keep you and your family warm, they need a 3-foot safety radius at all times, and should be kept far away from anything flammable. Though it might be tempting to try to use a space heater as a drying rack, NEVER, under any circumstances should you place something on top of, or touching the heater.
  7. Make sure all your smoke detectors are working correctly before lighting a fire in a fireplace, and have a professional come inspect and clean your chimney before lighting the first fire of the year. Only burn wood in your fireplace; don’t try to burn trash or paper.
  8. Many homes have installed gas fireplaces and/or stoves. Keep in mind, a child can get a full thickness burn on his hand from less than ONE SECOND of contact with a hot glass door or stove. Doors and stoves can stay very hot for a long time after being turned off so keep kids away.
  9. Make sure not to wear loose clothing when you’re near a fireplace so that you don’t accidentally catch a sleeve or the end of a scarf in the flame. Remember that you should NEVER leave an active fire unattended and you should ALWAYS make sure the fire is completely out before going to bed.

In the event of a fire or burn emergency, call 911 IMMEDIATELY. If your child is burned, you may call us directly at 844-8-LOVE-IS (844-856-8347) to discuss care.

To learn more about burn injury treatment, or other types of treatment at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Boston, we encourage you to reach out by calling us at 617-722-3000.