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Published on February 15, 2016

Safe and Warm in the Storm

While you stock up on bread and milk for potential winter precipitation, grab a box of tissues as well. Cold weather can bring about coughs, colds and sniffles, but it can also aggravate other medical conditions.

Cold air is often dry; aggravating and irritating airways especially for those with asthma, COPD or bronchitis. This irritation can cause shortness of breath or coughing. Cold weather can also bring additional physical exertion, such as shoveling snow, which adds extra stress on the heart—this is dangerous for those with cardiovascular disease. Cold can also cause chest pain and discomfort to those with coronary heart disease.

“Those with chronic lung, heart and arthritis conditions are particularly impacted by cold weather,” said Linda Edmond of Spartanburg Regional Home Health. “We tell our patients to stay inside unless it is absolutely necessary to go out into the cold.”

The very young and elderly are also more harshly impacted, and those who suffer from Peripheral Artery Disease, which limits the blood flow to the legs and hands, said Glenn Gann, Director of Nursing for Emergency Services at Spartanburg Medical Center.

“At the Emergency Center, we are always prepared for the wide variety of illnesses and injuries that present for care,” said Dr. Thomas Boyd, director of Emergency Medicine of Spartanburg Medical Center. “We use the trauma area, which is kept heated to 90 degrees, for hypothermic patients along with a body warming system to wrap the patient and return their core temperature to normal.”

What should I do to prevent having cold weather injuries and medical issues?

• If you have to be out in the cold, wear a hat and layer your clothing. Cover your ears with a hat or headband.
• Make sure you have adequate heat with a backup heating system.
• Do not use ovens or kerosene heaters as they are serious fire hazards.
• If you don’t have adequate heat, make plans to stay with friends or relatives.
• If you are unable to stay with friends or relatives, research shelter options in your community.
• Ensure you have adequate supplies of all your medications and food.
• Don’t drink alcohol as your body will lose heat faster.
• Stay hydrated and keep moving.
• Watch for signs of frostbite such as numbness, prickly feeling, red or pale skin.
• Mittens work better than gloves to keep fingers warm.
If there is a threat of extremely cold weather or a winter storm, gather your emergency numbers and medication and keep them in a central location in case of an emergency. If you suffer from a serious injury or medical episode, call 9-1-1 immediately.

About Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System

Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System (SRHS) offers a full spectrum of services through four hospitals: Spartanburg Medical Center, Pelham Medical Center, Spartanburg Hospital for Restorative Care and Union Medical Center. SRHS also includes Ellen Sagar Nursing Center, 113-bed long-term care, skilled nursing facility that offers nursing care and rehabilitation services. SRHS provides unparalleled oncological care through the Gibbs Cancer Center & Research Institute. The multidisciplinary Medical Group of the Carolinas has more than 300 physicians across seven counties in two states. SRHS employs nearly 6,000 associates and offers outpatient surgery centers, a vibrant post-acute division, a Level I Trauma Center, and Advicare, a licensed Health Maintenance Organization (HMO). Advicare provides Medicaid services to residents throughout the state of South Carolina. U.S. News and World Report ranked Spartanburg Medical Center the No. 1 regional hospital in South Carolina in 2014-15. The Commission on Cancer gave Gibbs Cancer Center & Research Institute its Outstanding Achievement Award.

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