what to do to protect your health?

The cold is coming to France, confirm the meteorologists. The cold, but also the icy wind and snow can be damaging to health and cause frostbite, hypothermia, asthma attacks, angina pectoris … Practical advice to avoid being cold.

[Mise à jour le 22 novembre 2021 à 12h30] The temperatures have dropped in France since Sunday evening as planned. Meteo France confirms a “clear refresh”: “Temperatures could continue to drop and gradually take on a winter character. “ The cold imposes on corps to dos additional efforts. the heart beats faster to prevent the body from cooling down. This can be risky for the most fragile such as the elderly, children and the chronically ill. Reminder of the essential advice to follow in case of extreme cold.

What is the definition of a cold snap?

A cold snap is a lasting episode (at least 3 days) and geographically extended from cold, precise Meteo France. For an episode to be identified nationally, the national average temperature must be at least one day below a certain threshold (-2 ° C).

What to do to protect yourself from a cold snap?

The cold, but also the icy wind and snow can be damaging to health and cause frostbite, hypothermia, attacks ofasthma, angina pectoris, etc. It is therefore necessary to be extra vigilant and adopt the following reflexes:

  • Limit outdoor activities if you are at risk. Unless absolutely necessary, avoid going out with your baby during very cold periods.
  • Limit physical effort even when you are in good health.
  • If you have to go out, cover yourself warmly (hat and scarf to cover the mouth) and put on non-slip shoes to prevent falls.
  • Be especially vigilant for infants and children. Avoid placing your infant in a baby carrier, which may compress his lower limbs and cause frostbite. It is best if your child is carried in an arms, pram or stroller so that they can move around regularly to warm up.
  • If you spot a homeless person in difficulty, contact a social service such as the Samu social de Paris in the capital, which can be reached at 115.
  • At home, have your system checked heating by a professional. Do not overload wood stoves and auxiliary heaters, in order to avoid fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. It is recommended to ban additional heaters using fuel, for the same reasons. Maintain a sufficient temperature (19 ° C), including in the chamber and close unused rooms. Above all, do not block the ventilation ducts.

What clothes to choose when it’s cold?

If you are going out in cold weather, it is essential to cover yourself enough to keep your body temperature constant. The most important is :

  • do not forget to wear a hat because up to 30% of heat is lost for the head,
  • to put on a scarf for the neck and to cover the nose and mouth to avoid breathing cold air,
  • gloves for the hands and warm socks for the feet,
  • to choose non-slip and comfortable shoes to avoid falls on slippery ground.
  • put on several layers of clothes, plus a waterproof windbreaker. For the first layer, prefer a material in which you do not risk sweating in order to keep the skin dry. Because if you sweat, your body will get wet and you may cool down faster.

The equation is simple: too much heating = restless sleep. During the day and especially at night, do not overheat your interior (keep the temperature at a minimum of 19 ° C). Even if you are cautious, better add quilts and blankets on your bed than to mount the radiators. The heat tends to slow blood flow, which will affect your body. In particular, you run the risk of sleeping less well. Moreover, even if it is cold, thedaily ventilation of your interior is essential to renew the air (20 minutes a day minimum). With winter, colds, flu and other winter infections are everywhere. Airing helps fight against the proliferation of viruses and bacteria.

Have you had your boiler serviced?

Do not take any risks, a poor state of your installation can lead to poor combustion, responsible forcarbon monoxide poisoning. And it is still the leading cause of death from poisoning in France. As a reminder, carbon monoxide is an undetectable asphyxiant gas: it is invisible, odorless and non-irritant. All appliances running on gas, wood, coal, gasoline, fuel oil or even ethanol are liable, in the event of malfunction, to release carbon monoxide.

How not to have cold hands and feet?

The most exposed parts, the extremities like the hands and feet are particularly sensitive to the cold. However, they must be protected sufficiently to avoid the formation of chapped, painful cracks which develop on areas exposed for a long time to severe cold (less than 0 ° C) which dehydrates the skin. Without water, it dries up and feels tight. Furrows widen and cracks, even cracks (deeper) appear. But that’s not the only risk! Exposure of the extremities to negative temperatures causes vasoconstriction of the capillaries. This natural phenomenon of fighting against the cold can eventually lead to the appearance of red lesions on the hands, feet but also ears or face, which is called engelures. Often they are accompanied by itching.

Prevention :

  • Use a Savon surgras to wash your hands and avoid antiseptic soaps too much detergents.
  • Apply a protective hand cream regularly during the day.
  • Never go out in the cold without putting on gloves suitable for the cold (also remember to put on gloves for your housework).
  • Opt for socks that retain heat well, if necessary in a double layer (cotton and wool, and which do not tighten too much (same thing for shoes). They compress the feet and make them more vulnerable to the cold.
  • Use gloves for housework and washing up.

In curative:

  • In case of frostbite, the first reflex is to gently warming the affected body part. How? ‘Or’ What ? Wrap it with a warm, damp cloth for about ten minutes and in all cases.
  • To treat an installed crevice, you must apply a cream rich in vitamin A, B5 and E: ask for advice at a pharmacy or your doctor.
  • Avoid large temperature differences, the skin is already traumatized.
  • Be careful, when the fingers turn white, numb, these signs should alert you. It is high time to get into a warm environment! The first thing to do: warm the frozen part by immersing it in lukewarm water (38 ° C). If it’s painful, that’s a good sign. This rediscovered sensitivity is the witness of a superficial lesion. But if the anesthesia persists and blisters appear, a doctor’s consultation is necessary.

What are the signs of hypothermia?

Against the cold, the body multiplies the defense mechanisms to produce heat and maintain the body temperature at 37 ° C. But all it takes is exhaustion or trauma for these mechanisms to become less efficient. As a result, the body loses more heat than it produces. Suddenly, he cools, it’s hypothermia. This is defined by a drop in core body temperature below 35 ° C. Although it is a rare occurrence, hypothermia is a sneaky disorder that sets in quickly without realizing it and can be fatal. Vigilance is therefore essential.

Hypothermia only appears during a prolonged immobilization in the cold. Injured hikers and the homeless are particularly at risk. But, the elderly or the sick, the children, the pregnant women and anyone taking psychotropic drugs (alcohol, sleeping pills, etc.) are also concerned. To know: hypothermia constitutes an immediate danger when the temperature of the house does not exceed 15 ° C. Here are the signs to look out for when it’s really cold:

  • Mild hypothermia (35 to 32 ° C): the person is cold, shivers and has goosebumps. She feels numb. His breathing and pulse quicken.
  • Moderate hypothermia (32 to 28 ° C): the skin becomes pale and cold. Lips and extremities turn blue. The limbs have lost their flexibility. The victim begins to have behavioral problems or inappropriate comments. Speech can be difficult. She no longer shivers.
  • Severe hypothermia (28 to 25 ° C): respiration and heart rate are practically undetectable. Death from cardiac arrest can occur at any time.

Lowering the ambient temperature increases the risk of heart attack.

Can we play sports when it’s very cold?

The cold requires additional efforts on our body and in particular on our heart which beats faster to avoid the cooling. So in a period of extreme cold, it is better to limit physical efforts as this could worsen any cardiovascular problems. The decrease in ambient temperature notably increases the risk of myocardial infarction. According to a British study published in the British Medical Journal and conducted in 15 cities in England and Wales between 2003 and 2006, each degree of drop in ambient temperature is associated with an increased risk of short-term myocardial infarction (by 2% over the 28 days following). The oldest people and those already suffering from coronary heart disease are the most vulnerable to these drops in temperature.

Note that if your child has asthma, he must avoid sports exercises outdoors, particularly in cases of unstable asthma, exercise-induced asthma or cold-triggered asthma. To avoid seizures and limit the risks, make sure your child always has their medication with them.

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