How cold will it be? Doctors say the frigid temps could cause unique health issues

CLEVELAND- Extremely cold temperatures can pose unique health issues unlike a typical winter day. Doctors say, in some cases, simply talking or taking a deep breath outside could be dangerous.

"Many layers, stay inside, blankets, tea," a woman walking near University Circle said.

For many people, staying indoors appears to be the only activity on their agenda for Wednesday.

"Me and my friends are going to the supermarket now to get some food and we're just gonna hang out tomorrow, I think, too cold to go outside," said a man, also walking along Euclid Avenue.

"Definitely not a regular cold; people need to take all precautions necessary to stay warm, stay indoors if possible," explained Dr. Pat Vijitakula, an emergency room physician at University Hospitals.

Dr. Vijitakula says staying inside and out of the cold is the healthiest advice for surviving in below-zero temperatures. That's especially true for the very young, the very old, or people with certain illnesses.

"Try not to be outside breathing such cold air, especially those who have lung conditions, asthma, COPD," said the doctor.

According to the American Lung Association, cold air is often dry air and can irritate the airways, even in a healthy person. Doctors say even taking a deep breath outside can cause problems, and extremely cold air can also be a strain on the heart.

"It could work your heart extra and so you can have a higher risk of heart attack," said Dr. Vijitakula.

If you must be outside, health experts recommend that you wrap a scarf loosely around your nose and mouth to warm the air before breathing it in. Doctors also warn about hypothermia and frostbite, which can affect exposed skin within minutes.

"Actually once it gets too cold, once it gets to a certain point, you just start losing sensation and that's where the chance of not being reversed, you won't be able to warm it up, simply warming it up will not help," said the doctor.

"I've been in 41 states and Canada, Wisconsin, all that, Canada; believe me, I've been in the cold, so I'm used to it," said a former truck driver, who has been living in Cleveland for 11 years.

Doctors remind people with breathing conditions to keep their medications or inhalers with them.

They also say if you begin to feel pain in your fingers or toes, that could be a sign of frostbite. Cover up the area to slowly warm it and do not rub it.

**More on preventing frostbite, here**

**A list of warming centers, here**

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