Subzero temperatures and extreme wind chills expected Sunday and Monday will be so severe that exposed skin will get frostbitten within five minutes, a Mayo Clinic emergency physician warned Friday.
"Nobody can change a tire in five minutes," said Dr. David Nestler, who has provided emergency care in cold climates for 30 years.
Ironically, he's most likely to see otherwise-healthy, middle-aged people who think they're not at risk in the ER. A flat tire while heading to work, for example, can quickly turn dangerous.
Nester said do everything possible to avoid going outdoors Monday. The most-common need for ER care happens when someone gets stuck outside when he or she didn't plan on it, didn't prepare and has no cell phone along.
Nestler, the Elder Care Network, AAA, the Rochester Fire Department, Assisi Drive Animal Hospital, Possibilities, the American Red Cross and Olmsted County Public Health offered this harsh-weather advice:
• Cancel and reschedule non-emergency medical treatment and other appointments Monday.
• Tell kids it's too cold to be outside (that's why school is canceled).
• Call elderly neighbors and family to make sure their heat works and they're safely inside with food, water and needed medicine.
• If you must leave home, take a charged cell phone. Call for help immediately if your car breaks down.
• Dress as if you're going to be stuck outside for a long time, even if you only plan to drive a short distance. With an otherwise minor fender-bender "you may get yourself in trouble very quickly," Nestler said.
• Family caregivers — for children and adults with cognitive or physical disabilities — should keep the family indoors, because such individuals might not be able to keep exposed skin covered well enough.
• If your car breaks down away from town, stay in it, getting out only to wave urgently for help when traffic nears.
• If you absolutely must go outside, wear a hat and mittens (mittens keep fingers warmer than gloves), a scarf or knit mask to cover face and mouth, sleeves snug to wrist, water-resistant coat and boots, layers of loose-fitting clothing with the outer layer wind resistant. Remember, if you get wet, the body chills fast.
• Seek medical attention immediately for symptoms of hypothermia such as confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering.
• Never warm up a car in enclosed area, like a garage (where carbon monoxide can build up).
• Protect nose, ears, cheeks, chin, toes and fingers — areas most-often frostbitten. Frostbite symptoms include loss of feeling and white or pale appearance to extremities.
• Don't forget your pets. Use paw booties, if your dog tolerates. Limit time outdoors. If your dog won't tolerate booties, try a thin layer of Vaseline on pad of nose, foot pads and ear tips (especially smaller dogs), the same as Chapstick for humans.
• If vehicle breaks down and you're stranded, use whatever's available to insulate body, such as floor mats, newspapers or paper maps.
• Give dogs a toy with a treat inside. Getting treat helps work off pent-up energy.
• Check pipes/sprinkler heads for frost. If present, call your vendor now to avoid water damage once temperatures warm (and frozen pipes break).
• If you must drive, carry a cell phone with emergency car-service number programmed, blankets, gloves, hats, food, water and medicine.
• Keep garage doors closed to the outside to prevent water pipes from freezing. Let water trickle to keep the flow moving and help prevent freezing.