Skin exposure in the recent bitterly cold temperatures is a cause for concern, health officials warn.

Midge Ransom, Franklin County health department director, said there are precautions to take to keep frostbite cases to a minimum. She said people who work outside, such as construction and utility workers along with firefighters and law enforcement, need to know their bodies.

“People who are healthy and used to being outside can dress appropriately and be fine,” Ransom said. “Dress in layers. We have a lot of synthetics that keep you warm and [keep] moisture away from the body. A lot of wool blends are great for this type of weather. Wear light, thin layers next to your skin and bulk up from there. Something you can shed easily as you warm up.”

The Ottawa water plant reported highs of 11 degrees and lows of minus 8 degrees Sunday and Monday in Ottawa. A warming trend is on the horizon. Friday’s forecasted high in Ottawa is in the 30s and Saturday and Sunday could reach into the 40s, according to AccuWeather.

Ransom warned furnaces need to be operating correctly and carbon monoxide detectors should be placed in homes. She said the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning is real at this time of year.

Ransom said breathing the colder temperatures can damage lungs. She said people need to wear something over the neck, ears and mouth.

“They don’t have to be heavy layers,” she said. “Something wrapped around your neck, over your face and ears, to protect from frostbite. As well as cover your mouth and nose so the air is warmed a little bit before it comes into your lungs.”

People can still walk or run in these type of temperatures, but need to take heed of the conditions, she said. Ransom said there are hand warmers and electric socks to help keep the hands and feet from freezing.

“There are all kinds of options depending on how cold you get,” Ransom said. “Mittens are better than gloves. If you are out walking and exercising, it keeps your fingers together a little better. Individuals who have circulatory issues are susceptible anyway to the cold. They need to know how to protect their hands or feet.”

Ransom said people need to stay hydrated in the cold.

“The humidity is so low,” she said. “People need to make sure they are getting enough water, keeping their skin hydrated so it does not crack and get infected. Being outside in the cold dries your skin even more. It is harder for people to drink water when it is cold. There are things you can do to increase your water intake, like [drink] hot lemon water. Reduce the coffee and get rid of the alcohol in cold temperatures. Tobacco restricts blood vessels so that makes it worse.”

COLD WEATHER RULE

The City of Ottawa does have a cold weather rule for residents, so their utilities can remain connected during the winter months.

“We keep the heat on when it is this cold,” Scott Bird, city finance director, said. “We want to make sure people are safe. We advise them to visit with the agencies in town to see what they can do to help [with utility bills]. We work with people as well. One of the main things is to continue to communicate with us and let us know where they are to make sure when it does warm up we can continue to serve them.”

The cold weather rule for Ottawa is in effect Nov. 1 through March 31 and applies to residential electric accounts, according to a city press release. Here is the cold weather rule:

• Disconnection of residential electric accounts due to late payment will not occur when the temperature is forecast to drop below 35 degrees.

• There must be a 48-hour forecast of temperatures above 35 degrees before disconnection of utilities can commence. If the 48-hour forecast changes before the period ends, and temperatures are forecast to drop below 35, the working of disconnection will cease until another 48-hour forecast of temperatures above 35.

• Once a customer has been disconnected, the customer must pay all past due bills plus reconnect charges and any other applicable fees.

• This policy does not affect the ability of city staff to initiate disconnection of water accounts in accordance with the municipal code.