“Children, the elderly, and people with disabilities or special medical needs are especially vulnerable during cold weather,” said Dr. Muntu Davis, the county health officer. “Extra precaution should be taken to ensure they don’t get too cold when they are outside. There are places where people can go to stay warm, such as shelters or other public facilities.”
Davis also warned people not to use stoves, barbecues or ovens to heat their homes due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning; to use only approved heaters such as electric or natural gas heaters and fireplaces; to install carbon monoxide detectors; and, if using an outdoor generator at home, place it at least 10 feet away from all doors and windows to avoid exhaust gases entering the home.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause shortness of breath, headaches, muscle and joint pain and nausea. Exposure to high levels of the odorless gas can lead to death within minutes. Those suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning should be taken outside, into fresh air, immediately, and should be taken to an emergency room for immediate medical treatment, health officials said.
The health department said residents should dress in layers of warm clothing if planning to be outdoors, and protect their heads, hands and feet by wearing hats, scarves, gloves, and socks.
The health department also urged residents to check in on family members, friends and neighbors with limited mobility and limited access to heat, such as seniors or those who are ill. People exposed to cold weather for prolonged periods can lose body heat and develop hypothermia. Early symptoms include shivering, fatigue, loss of coordination and confusion and disorientation. Late symptoms include no shivering, blue skin, dilated pupils, slowed pulse and breathing and loss of consciousness.
Frostbite can also be a concern. It results in loss of feeling and color in affected areas such nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. The health department recommended that, in cases of suspected hypothermia or frostbite, gently warm the person and seek immediate medical care.
The L.A. Homeless Services Authority has a Winter Shelter Program available for those who need shelter. Locations and transportation information are online at lahsa.org or by calling the LA County Information line at 2-1-1. L.A. County residents and business owners, including people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs, may also call 2-1-1 or visit 211la.org for emergency preparedness information and other referral services 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
For the deaf and hearing-impaired, call the TDD line at 1-800-660-4026.