January 18, 2019

State health department advises Missourians to take precautions against bitter cold temperatures

Missourians are urged to check on neighbors, the elderly and disabled citizens

For Immediate Release:
January 18, 2019

Lisa Cox
Office of Public Information


JEFFERSON CITY, MO – Bitterly cold temperatures and dangerously cold wind chills are forecasted for this weekend and next week. The National Weather Service is predicting temperatures getting as low as the single digits and wind chills well below zero degrees. The coldest temperatures are expected to be Saturday through Monday with the coldest periods expected during the early hours of those days.


“We greatly appreciate the incredible dedication of our colleagues at the Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Safety this past weekend, under Director McKenna and Director Karsten’s leadership, as they kept us safe on the roadways.” said Dr. Randall Williams, Director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). “As we approach this weekend, we also want to emphasize that the forecasted conditions will be much colder than what we have experienced so far this season, and prolonged exposure can lead to hypothermia. Also, the combination of precipitation and these extreme temperatures is expected to cause slick surfaces. We urge all to take caution to avoid falls.”


DHSS urges residents to minimize outdoor activities during the extreme cold and to follow these safety tips:


  • Stay indoors in a warm area. If heat is not available, a warming center near you can be located at https://ogi.oa.mo.gov/DHSS/warmingCenter/index.html or you can obtain these resources by dialing 2-1-1 for United Way Referral.

  • Check on your neighbors, especially senior citizens and disabled adults. Make sure they are using adequate and safe heating sources. The state’s toll-free, adult abuse and neglect hotline (1-800-392-0210) can be used to report any elderly persons or adults with disabilities who may be suffering from extreme cold temperatures and need assistance. This hotline is operated 365 days per year from 7 a.m. to 12 a.m.

  • If you do have to be outdoors, dress in several layers of loose-fitting, layered and lightweight clothing. The space between these layers works as insulation to help keep you warmer.

    • Wear water resistant boots and something on your head.

    • Protect your ears and face. Wear a scarf to help protect your lungs from cold air – it will also protect your ears and face.

    • Schedule outdoor activities during the warmest part of the day, usually 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

    • Carry extra clothes with you such as socks, gloves, hats and jackets so you can change them if they get wet.

  • Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.

    • Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and pale or waxy white appearance of extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose.  Other signs may include numbness, a tingling or stinging sensation in the affected body part and reduced blood flow. If any of these symptoms are detected, please seek medical help immediately.

    • The warning signs of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. In infants, the skin will turn bright red and cold, and they may present with a very low energy level. If any of these signs appear, get the victim to a warm location immediately and call 911 for immediate medical assistance. 

  • Increase your fluid intake - regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink fluids. Avoid alcohol.

    • Ensure infants and children drink adequate amounts of liquids.

  • Medications can also increase the risk of temperature related illnesses. Some of these medications include antidepressants, antihistamines, heart medications, diuretics and chemotherapy drugs. Always consult with your doctor regarding the medications you are taking.

  • Make sure your car is properly winterized. Keep your gas tank filled. Prepare an emergency kit including blankets, a flashlight, waterproof matches, non-perishable foods and water.

  • Ensure you have sufficient heating fuel, as well as alternative emergency heating equipment in case you lose electricity. When using alternative heat sources, such as a generator, a fireplace, wood stove or space heater, take necessary safety precautions:

    • Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause flu-like illness or death. Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen during extremely cold weather when individuals try warming their homes through unconventional methods.

    • Never heat your home by using a gas stove, oven, kerosene heater, or charcoal or propane barbecue grill.

    • Make sure all heating devices are properly ventilated, and always operate a generator outdoors and at least 20 feet away from any window, door or vent in your home. Improper heating devices can lead to dangerous carbon monoxide buildup in the home.

    • Test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

    • Keep a fire extinguisher handy and ensure everyone knows how to use it properly.

    • Place anything that can burn easily at least three feet away from space heaters.

    • Do NOT run a car or truck inside a garage that is attached to your house, even if the door is open.

    • If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, call 911 immediately and get the victim to fresh air.

  • Limit outdoor time for your pets. They are also susceptible to the extreme cold temperatures.


For additional information regarding extreme cold safety tips, visit http://health.mo.gov/living/healthcondiseases/hypothermia/index.php or contact your local health department.

About the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services: The department seeks to be the leader in protecting health and keeping people safe. More information about DHSS can be found at health.mo.gov or find us on Facebook and Twitter @HealthyLivingMo.