TEMPLE (January 6, 2014) The record cold temperatures forecasted to hit Central Texas this week has health experts on high alert.
Doctors at Scott and White hospital in Temple often see cases of hypothermia, and even frost bite every year when temperatures drop.
"If the patient is found unconscious in the cold environment we start with our normal life saving protocols, but we don't always do everything the same because the heart could be more irritable in those temperatures," said Dr. Dorian Drigalla, emergency physician.
Prolonged exposure to low temperatures result in hypothermia setting in, he said.
"Certainly the very young babies, infants, toddlers have less insolating warmth, less defense against the cold, and the ability to fight back or to shiver or to generate their own body heat. The elderly are the same way in terms of their lack of resources."
He said citizens should avoid at least 20 - 40 minutes of direct exposure to the cold at a time.
Some symptoms of hypothermia to be on the lookout for include drowsiness, confusion, slowed thinking and speech, shallow breathing, shivering, and numbness.
"If somebody had a prolonged cold exposure or would appear to have had cold exposure the first thing to do is get them out of the cold," he said.
"Whatever clothing they are wearing get them out of that."
He said a wise thing to do is dress in layers, and protect the head, face, neck, ears, nose, and cheeks.
Experts also reminded the community to check on others who may not get visitors that often.
"A lot of the hypothermia that we see isn't someone who is outside working in a pasture and gets stuck, but actually someone who is in their own home and the heats not working well and they're unable to call for help," he said.
The City of Killeen opened a warming center at the Killeen Community Center for those looking to get out of the cold.
Temple also has a warming shelter open for men at the Transformation Station along East Central Avenue.