Cold wave poses health threat to young and old

Two die from hypothermia; MDA issues precautions to prevent CO poisoning.

By JUDY SIEGEL, JERUSALEM POST STAFF
January 13, 2008 10:11
2 minute read.
Cold wave poses health threat to young and old

fucking freezing 224.88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )

 
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Sub-zero temperatures from the North to the South have resulted in hypothermia in children and the elderly and whole families overcome by carbon monoxide exhaust gases from heating systems. A 78-year-old woman and a 40-year-old man died on Saturday from hypothermia (body temperature of 35 degrees Celsius or lower) as a result of a cold front which gripped the country over the weekend and is expected to last until the end of the week. The woman, a Beersheba resident, was rushed to Soroka University Medical Center at noon. Upon arrival, she was listed in critical condition as her body temperature had dropped to 26.5º. Doctors tried to stabilize the woman but were unsuccessful, and after a few hours declared her dead. Further north, another victim of the cold was found dead near the entrance to a bomb shelter in Holon. Magen David Adom teams were called to the scene, where they determined that the man had died from hypothermia. They noted that an empty vodka bottle was found near the body. Warning of another potential cold weather-related danger, Magen David Adom reported Sunday that an average of 100 people suffer from CO poisoning every winter as a result of gas and other heaters that are faulty or not placed in a ventilated area. CO released by heaters left on all night reaches high concentrations in a closed, insulated house. Victims have to undergo hyperbaric oxygen treatment in one of the handful of hospitals that have special chambers, and sometimes the cases nevertheless end in death. CO is colorless, tasteless and odorless, thus there are no signs that the dangerous gas is present in the air. Symptoms include headache, noise in the ears, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, the inability to concentrate, breathing difficulty, fainting and - in the final stage - loss of consciousness. If someone suffers from CO poisoning, open the windows, call 101 for an ambulance and perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation until the medics arrive. Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba reported that over the weekend, two women from the south were rushed to its emergency room suffering from hypothermia. In addition to the 78-year-old Beersheba woman, an 80-year-old woman of the Beduin community was also brought in and had a temperature of only 33º. She was warmed in the emergency room and stabilized, and she is now recovering in the internal medicine department. Dr. Yoram Shnir, head of the urgent medicine unit, said that wearing wet clothes and being exposed to winds, along with smoking and drinking alcohol, is even more dangerous. The hospital also received five children from a single family who suffered from CO poisoning, apparently from burning charcoal to keep warm. They are now being treated for complications. The Health Ministry recommended dressing infants and toddlers in several layers of light clothing to insulate their bodies and to heat homes at temperatures ranging from 21º to 24º with safe means that are out of reach of children and that don't emit gases into the rooms. Using flannel sheets and wearing socks at night are recommended for older people, as are making regular visits to the elderly who live alone and encouraging them to drink water and consume warm foods.

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