Information on protecting yourself during extremely cold temperatures
When winter temperatures drop significantly below normal, staying warm and safe can become a challenge.
Johnson County Government is sharing information on several resources including warming centers, other places to get out of the cold for a bit and public health advice for these cold temperatures.
Warming centers in Johnson County
Visit Library Locations for hours at each location.
Monday - Thursday: 8:30 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Friday: 8:30 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Capacity is limited to approximately five to six.
6 p.m. to 8 a.m. December 1 through March 31
RideKC Warming bus
When the temperature drops below 10 degrees, RideKC warming buses will be stationed at the Mission Transit Center as needed.
Go to RideKC website for information.
Public health information
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.
Serious health problems can result from prolonged exposure to the cold. The most common cold-related problems are hypothermia and frostbite. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up your body’s stored energy. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. Body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well. This makes hypothermia particularly dangerous because a person may not know it is happening and won’t be able to do anything about it.
Signs of Hypothermia
If you notice any of these signs, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95°, the situation is an emergency—seek medical attention immediately.
- Shivering, exhaustion
- Confusion, fumbling hands
- Memory loss, slurred speech
- Bright red, cold skin
- Very low energy
Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. Frostbite can permanently damage the body, and severe cases can lead to amputation. The risk of frostbite is increased in people with reduced blood circulation and among people who are not dressed properly for extremely cold temperatures.
At the first signs of redness or pain in any skin area, get out of the cold or protect any exposed skin—frostbite may be beginning. Any of the following signs may indicate frostbite:
- A white or grayish-yellow skin area
- Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
A victim is often unaware of frostbite until someone else points it out because the frozen tissues are numb. If you detect symptoms of frostbite, seek medical care. Because frostbite and hypothermia both result from exposure, first determine whether the victim also shows signs of hypothermia, as described previously. Hypothermia is a more serious medical condition and requires emergency medical assistance.
Other health information
Cold weather puts an extra strain on the heart. If you have heart disease or high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s advice about shoveling snow or performing other hard work in the cold. Otherwise, if you must do heavy outdoor chores, dress warmly and work slowly. Remember, your body is already working hard just to stay warm, so don’t overdo it.
The ability to feel a change in temperature decreases with age, and older people are more susceptible to health problems caused by cold. Older adults often make less body heat because of a slower metabolism and less physical activity. If you are over 65 years of age, check the temperature in your home often during severely cold weather. Also, check on elderly friends and neighbors frequently to ensure that their homes are adequately heated.
Infants less than one year old should never sleep in a cold room because (1) infants lose body heat more easily than adults; and (2) unlike adults, infants can’t make enough body heat by shivering. Provide warm clothing for infants and try to maintain a warm indoor temperature. If the temperature cannot be maintained, make temporary arrangements to stay elsewhere. In an emergency, you can keep an infant warm using your own body heat. If you must sleep, take precautions to prevent rolling on the baby. Pillows and other soft bedding can also present a risk of smothering; remove them from the area near the baby.
Eating well-balanced meals will help you stay warmer. Do not drink alcoholic or caffeinated beverages—they cause your body to lose heat more rapidly. Instead, drink warm, sweet beverages or broth to help maintain your body temperature. If you have any dietary restrictions, ask your doctor.
When the weather is extremely cold, and especially if there are high winds, try to stay indoors. Make any trips outside as brief as possible, dress warmly and stay dry.
Layer winter clothing
- A hat
- A scarf or knit mask to cover face and mouth
- Sleeves that are snug at the wrist
- Mittens (they are warmer than gloves)
- Water-resistant coat and boots
- Several layers of loose-fitting clothing
Be sure the outer layer of your clothing is tightly woven, preferably wind resistant, to reduce body-heat loss caused by wind. Wool, silk, or polypropylene inner layers of clothing will hold more body heat than cotton. Stay dry—wet clothing chills the body rapidly. Excess perspiration will increase heat loss, so remove extra layers of clothing whenever you feel too warm. Also, avoid getting gasoline or alcohol on your skin while de-icing and fueling your car or using a snow blower. These materials in contact with the skin greatly increase heat loss from the body. Do not ignore shivering. It’s an important first sign that the body is losing heat. Persistent shivering is a signal to return indoors.
Emergency supplies to have on hand or in a vehicle
- Multipurpose, dry-chemical fire extinguisher
- First aid kit and instruction manual
- Flashlight or battery-powered lantern
- Battery-powered radio
- Battery-powered clock or watch
- Extra batteries
- Non-electric can opener
- Snow shovel
- Rock salt
- Special needs items (diapers, hearing aid batteries, medications, etc.)
- Water stored in clean containers, or purchased bottled water (5 gallons per person in case your water pipes freeze and rupture)