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Emergency Preparedness

Extreme Cold

Exposure to cold temperatures, whether indoors or outside, can cause serious or life-threatening health problems. Infants and the elderly are particularly at risk, but anyone can be affected. To keep yourself and your family safe, you should know how to prevent cold-related health problems and what to do if a cold-weather health emergency arises.

Steps you can take
Know the signs of hypothermia
Body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well. Signs of hypothermia include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness.

Know how to care for hypothermia
Take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95 degrees, you need medical personnel to respond—call 911.  If medical care is not available, begin warming the person. To do this: 

  • Place the victim in a warm room or shelter.
  • Remove any wet clothes.
  • Warm the center of the body first—chest, neck, head, and groin—using an electric blanket, if available. Or use skin-to-skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing, towels, or sheets.
  • Warm beverages can help increase the body temperature, but do not give alcoholic beverages. Do not try to give beverages to an unconscious person.
  • After body temperature has increased, keep the person dry and wrapped in a warm blanket, including the head and neck.
  • Get medical attention as soon as possible.

For more information
ECHO has helpful multilingual videos on how to stay safe during extreme cold.


People can also call 1-888-883-8831 to listen to an audio message about extreme cold safety tips in English, Spanish, Hmong, Somali, Oromo, Russian, Lao, Khmer, Vietnamese and Arabic.

Last updated: 1/3/2014 9:22 AM