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St. Mary Mercy Livonia Expert Offers Cold Weather Health Tips
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As the polar vortex of artic air swirls around us making it bitterly cold, we encourage you to stay inside and only go out when necessary. St. Mary Mercy Livonia's Emergency Department physician Patricia Paz-Arabo, MD offers a few health tips to keep you safe and healthy while braving this weather. However, if you do need it, know the St. Mary Mercy Emergency Center is open and here for you. Stay inside. With the wind chill, temperatures are well below zero. Although she doesn't advise anyone to venture out in these temperatures, Dr. Paz says elderly should especially heed this warning. "Not only are they more easily chilled, but many elderly are often on medications that make them more susceptible to hyperthermia." Dress accordingly. Exposing skin to these sub-zero temperatures can result in frostbite in a matter of minutes. If you must go outside, cover up all exposed areas of skin. Also, remember to wear multiple layers of loose clothing. This traps air between layers, forming a protective insulation. Also, wear a hat. Much of your body's heat can be lost through your head and ears are especially prone to frostbite. "Make sure your fingers and toes are protected too," said Dr. Paz. "By the time you feel frostbite it's already too late, wear water proof gloves and boots as well as clothing that wick moisture away from skin." Keep your nose and mouth covered. Cold air causes constriction in airways which can lead to shortness of breath especially in those who have lung conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and asthma. "The cold air exposure can trigger bronchospasm which causes wheezing due to airways tightening. This reaction happens most often in people who have asthma or COPD," said Dr. Paz. Wearing a soft scarf over your nose and mouth and breathing through your nose which filters, warms and moistens air before it enters your lungs. Don't overdo it with snow removal. With the snow blowing and drifting, shoveling and snow blowing will be an ongoing chore, but Dr. Paz warns not to overdo it. "We see people come into the emergency room because they are experienced signs of heart attack while shoveling snow," said Dr. Paz. "Take your time and take frequent breaks. Even if you have a snow blower, pushing it through the snow is still putting stress on your heart." If you experience any signs of heart attack such as shortness of breath, dizziness or sudden pain in the chest, shoulder, neck or arm, stop immediately and call 911.