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RIDOH Reminds Rhode Islanders to Stay Safe During Extreme Cold

With frigid temperatures predicted through the holiday weekend, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) reminds Rhode Islanders of precautions to take in extreme cold.

1. Check on elderly family, friends and neighbors frequently. The elderly are especially susceptible to extremely cold temperatures.

2. Watch for icy or slippery spots on driveways and walkways to help prevent injuries from slips and falls.

3. Dress warmly if you are outside, especially if you are not physically active. Wear a coat, hat, scarf and gloves even for a short walk to a mailbox. A fall or a locked door can leave you exposed to extreme cold.

4. Consider postponing any "polar plunges" planned for New Year's Day, due to the dangerously cold temperatures predicted. Take precautions if you participate in one: DO NOT plunge if you have any heart or serious medical conditions, or if you are not used to higher heart rates from physical activity. DO NOT stay in the water for more than a few minutes. Body heat is lost 25 times faster in water than in air. DO NOT dive or somersault into the water. DO NOT drink alcohol prior to the plunge. Alcohol accelerates hypothermia. DO bring a robe, blanket, towel or jacket to wear while waiting to plunge and for when you get out of the water. A towel to dry off as well as an extra towel to stand on is also a good idea. Change out of your wet clothes and dry yourself right away after you come out of the water.

5. If someone has been exposed to extreme cold and is showing signs of hypothermia (confusion, trouble walking, shivering) call 911 right away. Cover the person with a warm blanket. Do not rub the person's arms or legs.

6. Set indoor temperatures according to activity level, health and medications. A safe, fuel-saving temperature for a young, active family may be dangerous for an older person who has trouble moving or is taking certain medications.

7. Avoid drinking alcohol, as it can lower the body's ability to keep warm.

8. Hydrate. Drink plenty of water and other non-caffeinated, no-sugar beverages. (You can get dehydrated in cold weather too.)

9. Review fire safety tips for keeping warm during severe cold weather. The risk of injury and death from home fires and carbon monoxide poisoning increases during severe cold weather, when people are more likely to seek alternative heating sources to stay warm. Make sure you have working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms. Review additional fire safety tips from the Rhode Island Fire Marshal's Office at https://www.ri.gov/press/view/32177

"Exposure to lower-than-normal temperatures for even a short time can be dangerous for the very young, elderly, and those with chronic diseases," said Director of Health, Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "It is important that all Rhode Islanders use caution during extreme cold, and as a community, be particularly aware of those who are most at risk."

A list of warming centers open to the public for those who need to seek temporary shelter is available on the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency website: http://www.riema.ri.gov/warmingcenters/

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