Avoiding frostbite and frozen pipes: Tips for getting through this week’s extreme cold

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – With bitterly cold weather arriving in central Indiana, it’s imperative you take steps to protect yourself and your home.

With wind chills of 20 below to 40 below zero expected, frostbite and hypothermia are real possibilities for those exposed to the elements.

Avoiding frostbite

You should limit your exposure to the outdoors. If you do go outside, experts at the Mayo Clinic recommend that you dress in layers of loose, warm clothing, wear a hat or headband that fully covers your ears and wear mittens instead of gloves.

Early symptoms of frostbite include red or pale skin, prickling and numbness. In this weather, you could get frostbite in under ten minutes!

More from the Mayo Clinic:

Seek medical attention for frostbite if you experience:

  • Signs and symptoms of superficial or deep frostbite
  • Increased pain, swelling, redness or discharge in the area that was frostbitten
  • Fever
  • New, unexplained symptoms

Get emergency medical help if you suspect hypothermia, a condition in which your body loses heat faster than it can be produced. Signs and symptoms of hypothermia include:

  • Intense shivering
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness and loss of coordination

If you notice any of those symptoms, get out of the cold as soon as possible.

On the road

A stranded or disabled vehicle could make for a life-or-death situation for drivers and their passengers. Indiana State Police urge Hoosiers to take the following precautions:

  • Before leaving check the weather forecast and let someone know your route of travel.
  • Always keep your gas tank full when driving in cold weather.
  • Carry a winter survival kit in your car which is to include: blankets, extra warm clothes, flashlight, extra batteries, brightly colored cloth, sand or a bag of cat litter, shovel, candles and matches, nonperishable, high-calorie foods, (nuts, raisins, and protein or energy bars), newspapers (for insulation), a first aid kit and jumper cables.
  • Do not leave your car if stranded; it is your best protection. Don’t panic, as an idling car only uses an average of one gallon of gas per hour.
  • Roll down a window a very small amount for fresh air.
  • Make sure the car’s exhaust pipe is not blocked to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • At night, leave your dome light on.
  • Always have your cell phone and a charger so you can call and let us know where you’re located.

At home

Citizens Energy offered the following tips to prevent frozen pipes:

  • Leave a thin stream of water running when the temperature is below freezing.
  • Insulate pipes that may be exposed to cold air.
  • Open cabinet doors below sinks to keep warm air circulating around pipes.
  • Make sure the lid on your water meter pit is tightly secured.
  • If your water meter is in the basement, ensure the area is heated and check for broken windows.
  • If you have piping in the garage, ensure the garage doors stay closed.
  • Locate your water shut-off valve so you know how to turn water off quickly in case a pipe bursts. Shut-off valves can be located in various places in your home, including the garage, basement, utility closet or the main entry for the water line into the house.

Find a frozen pipe? Here’s what to do

  • Turn off the water at the shut-off valve.
  • Open the faucet attached to the frozen pipe to allow water to flow through and relieve pressure buildup. Running water through the pipe also will help melt any remaining ice.
  • Apply gradual heat to the section of frozen pipe. This can be done by wrapping the pipes in bath towels or using a space heater to heat up the area where the pipes are located. Keep applying heat until the water pressure is restored and the water flows through freely. Never apply direct heat to the affected area.
  • If a pipe is bulging or you can’t find the location of the blockage, call a licensed plumber

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