Stay Warm, Protected During Winter Cold

Published on 4 February 2021 00:00

February 4, 2021

INDIANAPOLIS – The Marion County Public Health Department urges residents to protect themselves and others from the cold temperatures forecast for the area. Exposure to extreme cold can cause serious or possibly life-threatening health problems.

Time outside should be limited, with exposed skin covered as much as possible. Adults and children should wear a hat that covers the ears; a scarf or knit mask to cover the face, mouth and neck; mittens or gloves; a water-resistant coat and boots; and several layers of loose fit clothing. Staying dry is very important since wet clothing chills the body quickly.

“Serious health problems such as hypothermia and frostbite can result if a person is exposed to cold temperatures for a long period of time,” said Virginia A. Caine, M.D., director and chief medical officer of the Marion County Public Health Department. “It is especially important for the very old and very young to be in a warm place.”

Infants less than one year old should never sleep in a cold room because they lose body heat more easily than adults. Infants are also unable to create heat by shivering, like adults. Infants need a warm room for sleeping and warm clothing. Avoid using extra blankets or soft bedding, which increase the risk of smothering.

Warning signs for hypothermia in adults include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling of hands, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness. In infants, warning signs for hypothermia include red, cold skin and very low energy. If a person’s body temperature falls below 95 degrees, seek medical attention immediately. 

Any exposed skin that shows signs of redness or pain could be the result of frostbite. Other indications of frostbite are a white or grayish-yellow skin area, skin that feels unusually firm or waxy, or numbness. A person with symptoms of frostbite should seek medical care. Often, a person is unaware of frostbite until someone else notices because the skin is numb.   

At home, residents are encouraged to take steps to help prevent water pipes from freezing:

Residents should also take extra caution if they have heating units that burn fuel, such as natural gas, kerosene, oil or wood. These can all be a source of carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas that can cause illness or death. Failure to properly maintain and operate wood-burning or fuel-burning heating sources could potentially release dangerous levels of carbon monoxide into the home. It is very important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, especially any ventilation requirements. 

If using a space heater, do not place it within three feet of anything that can catch fire, such as drapes, furniture or bedding. Keep the space heater away from water and do not place it on top of furniture or near water. Be sure the cord is not a tripping hazard, but do not run it under carpets or rugs. And avoid using extension cords to plug in a space heater.

Cold temperatures can also be extremely dangerous for pets. Bring pets inside or provide them adequate shelter to keep them warm, and make sure they have access to fresh, unfrozen water. Exposed skin on noses, ears and paw pads can quickly freeze and suffer permanent damage.More information about staying safe during cold weather is available by accessing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Extreme Cold Guide at 


Curt Brantingham, M.A.
Media/Public Information Coordinator
Health & Hospital Corporation of Marion County
Marion County Public Health Department
Indianapolis, IN

317-221-2316 (o)  317-525-7450 (m)