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Editorial | Tips for staying safe in bitter cold

By Editorial Board
On February 18, 2014

A student at Dennison University died earlier this month after he was found lying on the ground outside with temperatures ranging from a low of 4 to a high of 22 degrees. David Hallman III apparently fell asleep outside a condo complex and was pronounced dead when police found him. The cause? Hypothermia.

An Oxford resident narrowly avoided the same deadly consequence in January when he was found on West Withrow Street passed out in the snow, only wearing jeans, a t-shirt and a hoodie. It was so cold that when Oxford Police called the Medivac helicopter to take the resident to the hospital, the helicopter could not come because of the freezing temperatures.

It's easy to dismiss the harsh cold on the weekends when the only things on students' schedules is hanging out with friends, blowing off some much needed steam built up from the week and spending time Uptown. It's also easy to assume that stories like these will only happen to others and not to you. When freezing temperatures, alcohol and skimpy clothing on a Saturday night are combined, the risk of getting seriously injured or hurt increases.

Hypothermia is a serious medical condition that no student wants to mess around with - if skin appears to be itchy, change in color to red, white, pale or grayish-yellow, hard or waxy in appearance or feels numb and has blisters, seek medical attention immediately. Any exposed skin to extreme cold is at risk for hypothermia. This includes you ladies. Wearing skirts without leggings or tights, peep-toe heels and jacketless outfits may impress that guy you have had your eye on, but the walk home may become extremely dangerous and even life-threatening.

The statistics on surviving hypothermia in water are also a bit daunting: if someone falls into cold water below 32.5 degrees, they will become unconscious within 15 minutes or less and then will likley only survive 45 minutes at most. With the Miami River not far at all from some dorms, this could be hazardous.

The Miami Student Editorial Board encourages students to take into account their health during the rest of the brutal winter months and to dress appropriately for the cold. It may be a pain to carry around winter accessories and jackets when out on the weekends, but it will be more than worth it when you have a 15-minute walk home at the end of the night.

Even though a common belief among students is that alcohol can "warm you up," alcohol unfortunately does play a role inducing hypothermia. Not only can it speed its progression, but as most of us know, it impairs motor skills and affects the ability to make clear decisions. Alcohol in high doses can also impair thermoregulation, which lowers the body's resistance to cold water. The board doesn't discourage students from having fun on the weekends, but wearing hats, gloves and insulated jackets can make a huge difference. Students should also always remain aware of how their decisions may impact their health.

Picking out the right clothing can make all the difference in life-threatening situations in the cold. Keeping critical heat-loss regions of the body covered can prevent hypothermia and frostbite. This includes the head, neck, sides of the chest, armpits and groin. Also cotton clothing is not a great insulator in situations where you end up in cold water, so that is something to keep in mind. Clothing made out of nylon is a great pick because it keeps warm air in and cold air out.

This doesn't mean the cute dress hanging up in your closet or a new shirt has to be put away until summer - layering is key to staying warm and some spots Uptown have coat checks or a room to hang up your outerwear.

The Board hopes students will choose to remain warm and safe as opposed to going out and wearing zero outerwear as if it were 50 or 60 degrees out. Hypothermia and frostbite are conditions no one wants to mess around with, and the board also encourages students to watch out for one another and to seek help if someone is passed out outside or has signs of hypothermia and frostbite.

Check out the U.S. National Library of Medicine website ( for tips on how to spot hypothermia and frostbite and the do's and don'ts of helping yourself or someone around you enduring these conditions.

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