Much of Massachusetts will see freezing temperatures and up to eight inches of snow to close the week. With the frigid temperatures, health care professionals are warning the public of the risks associated with the coming storm and how to avoid injury.
Vincent Meoli, regional medical director of American Family Care (AFC) highlighted that the very young, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions are particularly at risk.
“With the current restrictions,” said Meoli. “Anyone going out to a public place should assume they may have to spend extra time outdoors and dress accordingly.”
The Bay State is expected to be hit with as much as 6 to 8 inches of snow from Thursday afternoon through Friday evening, with Eastern Massachusetts being impacted the most by the winter storm, according to the National Weather Service.
By the time the storm’s over late Friday, 6 to 8 inches of snow will have fallen across much of the Cape and Islands as well as in Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Plymouth and Bristol counties, the weather service said.
Meoli pointed out that with temperatures dipping below the freezing mark, even 10 minutes of exposure can be dangerous. He added that the key to avoiding any cold-related ailments is to dress in several loose layers and cover as much exposed skin as possible.
At a minimum, Meoli said, layers should include a thin base that can wick away moisture from the skin; an insulating middle layer such as a sweater, sweatshirt, or down jacket; and a weatherproof outer layer that blocks the elements such as wind and water.
“Body parts that are particularly susceptible to frostbite include the nose, ears, toes, cheeks, chin and fingers,” advised Meoli. “Take extra care to cover those areas with a hat, scarf, mittens, warm socks and water-resistant, insulated boots.”
Hypothermia and frostbite are common this time of year, according to Meoli. For hyperthermia, people should look for shivering, confusion and memory loss, slurred speech, and drowsiness or exhaustion. Infants may show bright red, cold skin and extremely low energy.
“Some people don’t know they have frostbite because the tissue actually becomes numb,” said Meoli. “Red and painful skin is often the first sign, so take action if you experience either. More serious signs include white, gray, or yellowish skin; numbness; or skin that feels very firm or waxy.”
The AFC doctor stressed that if people are worried and even suspect that a loved one may have either condition, they should seek immediate medical help.
“If the person’s temperature drops below 95 degrees, seek immediate medical attention. In cases of frostbite, do not try to warm the affected area with electric heating pads, blankets, hot water, massage or rubbing,” said Meoli. “This may cause permanent tissue damage. If you have frostbite on toes or feet, avoid walking on them.”
AFC has walk-in centers on Cooley Street in Springfield and Union Street in West Springfield and provides services including urgent care, occupational medicine, and other non-emergency health care.
The clinics are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the week and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends and no appointments are necessary.