Bundling up in dangerously cold weather is common sense.
What's not so obvious is that cases of exposure can occur indoors and that ordinary winter cold can be troublesome.
and dangerously low wind chills are expected to continue into
Today's forecast: High 14; low -3
The Omaha-area forecast
Temperature: Daytime highs in
the teens through Monday; possible midweek warm-up into the mid-20s to 30s.
Wind chills: Below zero through Saturday morning, probably not as bad Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
Snow: A couple of inches possible beginning overnight Saturday, lasting through Sunday.
Winds: Could be a problem Monday, causing blowing and drifting snow.
Source: National Weather Service
“Exposure happens quite a bit in normal winter weather,” said Dr. Christine Miyake, an emergency room physician at the Nebraska Medical Center and a faculty member at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. “The temperature doesn't have to get down to single digits to have problems.”
But when it gets as cold as it is now, with below-zero temperatures and wind chills around 20 below, trouble can develop in a half-hour or less.
Being prepared is the best defense, Miyake said.
Miyake, Alegent Creighton Health pediatrician Dr. Katie Vollmuth and University of Nebraska-Lincoln textile researcher Yigi Yang offered these insights:
Causes: Keeping thermostats too low in homes of the elderly; immobilizing falls by the elderly; nighttime reveling that leads to drunkenness and passing out; keeping infants in cold rooms; staying outdoors too long by children and adults.
Others at risk: Diabetics; the mentally ill; exhausted, dehydrated or malnourished people; and those with peripheral vascular diseases.
Why the elderly? They have less heat-generating lean muscle and less protective body fat. The indoor temperature should be at least 68, according to the National Institute on Aging.
Why children? They have proportionally more surface area of skin, allowing greater heat loss.
Why the intoxicated? Alcohol creates a false sense of warmth, decreases the ability to sense pain and fosters drowsiness and impairs judgment.
Tips on clothing
Inner layer: Should hug the skin to keep out cold air. Wrist and ankle bands should be snug. Fit shouldn't be constrictive. Wear a wicking layer if you'll be sweating. Avoid cotton and rayon. Silk underwear is excellent for daily wear. Engineered fabrics are better than wool for wicking away sweat; silk isn't sturdy enough for athletes and must be hand-washed to protect the fibers.
Middle layer: Should fit loosely and be fluffy enough to insulate. Wool and Holofill polyester are good choices. To test a cheap fabric, squeeze it. If it compacts, it probably will insulate.
Outer layer: Should be wind-resistant; an engineered fabric is best.
Feet: Sweat contributes to cold feet, so wear an inner wicking sock if you'll be exercising. For everyday wear, a wool blend is good. Avoid cotton.
Hands: Opt for mittens over gloves.
Head: Ears, nose, cheeks and chin are the most frequent sites of frostbite. Keep covered.
Core: Keep your core dry and warm, and the rest of your body will stay warmer. Cold feet and hands result from the body's pulling in blood to protect the core.
Current conditions and forecast