After his amazing rescue out of a wrecked car in a frozen creek near Topeka this week, Ken Fergel, 80, was whisked to the hospital — not because he was injured in the wreck, but because he’d been covered in the freezing water, according to an Associated Press report.
Fergel was being treated for hypothermia, and as Kansas digs out from the incredible cold and blizzard conditions that struck this week, that is a threat that won’t go away over night.
While weather forecasts call for the area to get back into almost spring-like weather in the days to come, there are still weather risks to our health, especially from hypothermia, according to safety experts.
It doesn’t have to be frigid to be deadly.
According to information from the Centers for Disease Control, hypothermia strikes when “your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature.
“Body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well. This makes hypothermia particularly dangerous because a person may not know it is happening and won’t be able to do anything about it.”
Generally, the most common victims of hypothermia include:
• Elderly people with inadequate food, clothing, or heating
• Babies sleeping in cold bedrooms
• Children left unattended
• Adults under the influence of alcohol
• Mentally ill individuals
• People who remain outdoors for long periods — the homeless, hikers, hunters, and other outdoors-people
Signs of hypothermia in adults include:
• Confusion/fumbling hands
• Memory loss/slurred speech
Signs in infants include:
• Bright red, cold skin
• Very low energy
Usually, if it’s clear that hypothermia is present, the best thing to do is seek medical attention, according to the CDC information. “If you notice signs of hypothermia, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95 degrees, the situation is an emergency—get medical attention immediately.”
It doesn’t take incredible cold to weaken a person or make them susceptible, experts warn. What it does take is the wrong set of circumstances and even in fairly warm conditions, hypothermia is possible.
One of the ways that it is a threat is when people go to lakes early in the season, before the water gets a chance to warm up. They don’t stop to think that 75 degree water can quickly leach the warmth out of a submerged body, making conditions dangerous.
Sometimes it is the conditions, more than the temperature that create the danger, experts warn.