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Occupational Health: Tips and Guidences for extreme cold weather conditions

Professor Tiina Ikäheimo, a member of the Trigger team and Professor of Occupational Health at the University of Tromsø, offers insights into the effects of extreme cold on health.

Amidst the harsh winter storm sweeping through Europe, with temperatures plummeting below -40ºC in some areas, the Trigger project aims to provide valuable guidance on dealing with extreme cold weather to prevent health issues, especially among vulnerable groups such as children and individuals with cardiovascular and respiratory conditions.

Cold air can constrict airways, leading to respiratory symptoms as the heart and blood vessels experience increased stress.  Resulting in elevated blood pressure and a higher cardiac workload, particularly during physical activity. Due to their smaller size and reduced heat production, children are more susceptible to cold temperatures. Parents are advised to dress their children appropriately and closely monitor them to prevent frostbite.

It is noteworthy that the impact of cold weather on health can be significant, with noticeable effects starting at -20 degrees Celsius temperatures. Recognizing the warning signs is crucial to addressing cold-related health issues effectively. Individuals should be vigilant for symptoms such as frostbite, laboured breathing, or chest pain. The risk of frostbite escalates significantly in extremely cold conditions, where temperatures drop to -30 degrees Celsius or lower. At temperatures of -40 degrees Celsius or lower, frostbite can develop within minutes. Pain in extremities is an early indication of impending frostbite, and numbness suggests a high risk, necessitating immediate protective measures.

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