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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
|Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D.|
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TRENTON – With the National Weather Service predicting extremely cold weather over the next few days, the Department of Health and Senior Services reminds residents that exposure to extremely cold temperatures for even short periods of time can cause serious medical conditions.
People should check to ensure that their families and elderly neighbors have functioning heating systems in their homes and cars and are dressing warmly when outside.
The most serious cold-related illness is hypothermia, a drop of body temperature from the normal 98.6 degrees to 95 or lower, a condition which requires immediate emergency medical care. If you know or suspect that you or someone you know is suffering from hypothermia immediately call 911 to receive assistance, said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D.
"Hypothermia is treatable, but it must be dealt with immediately to prevent permanent damage or even death," said Commissioner Jacobs. "With temperatures reaching down to extreme lows tonight and as the winter progresses, everyone should be on the lookout for their own health and the health of their friends and loved ones."
The young, the elderly, the homeless, the mentally ill and those with chronic medical conditions are most at risk for hypothermia, Commissioner Jacobs noted. In 2004, 15 New Jerseyans died from hypothermia including 9 people over 55 years old.
At the earliest stages of hypothermia, violent shivering is the most noticeable symptom. As body temperature continues to drop, shivering will decrease and often stops; speech is distorted or slurred; behavior may become irrational; drowsiness or numbness occurs; pulse weakens; and the victim experiences shortness of breath and unconsciousness.
Hypothermia can be fatal if not treated. If you notice signs of hypothermia in someone, call 911 for medical attention immediately. While waiting for assistance, you should:
To prevent hypothermia and other ailments due to excessive cold indoors, residents should maintain a residence-wide temperature of 68 degrees using a regularly inspected heating system. Portable gas and propane heaters are not recommended except in emergency situations due to risk of fire and gas leaks. Healthy adults should check frequently on children, the elderly and sick friends and neighbors who may need a helping hand.
Tenants and homeowners with heating issues need to call their landlord and/or public utility for assistance. Links to electric and gas utilities and suppliers in New Jersey as well as service area maps are available on the Board of Public Utility web site at http://www.nj.gov/bpu/home/custAssistance.shtml.
For very low-income residents who are having difficulty affording their heating and utility bills, the Department of Community Affairs Home Energy Assistance Program can assist with heating and cooling bills, and make provisions for emergency heating system services and emergency fuel assistance. More information on this program is available at http://www.nj.gov/dca/dcr/hea/index.shtml or by calling 1 (800) 510-3102.
Other advice for avoiding cold-related illness and injury:
Department of Health
P. O. Box 360, Trenton, NJ 08625-0360