Brr. beware, the Kansas winter is upon us. Sub-zero temperatures — forecasted for tonight in Ottawa — plus the wind gusts pushing the windchills into the minus-30 or below area, has medical experts on alert for hypothermia or frostbite.

Hypothermia is often caused by exposure to cold weather or immersion in cold water. Hypothermia is a medical emergency that occurs when a body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature.

“It can be deadly,” Midge Ransom, Franklin County health department director, said. “Hypothermia can hospitalize you or cause people to lose their lives in a short time. Beware, it is different.”

Meg Pearson, CEO/Executive Director of Franklin County United Way, said her organization received a grant to help those in need of a place to stay during the frigid temperatures.

“We have a nice federal grant from the Homeland Security that allows us to place people in hotels,” she said. “If there was a family that needed a place to stay over a cold session, we could put them in hotels. This grant funding ends in March.”

Ransom said it is important with these type of windchills to cover up the whole body.

“Make sure that your extremities and your head, nose and mouth — those sensitive areas of your body — covered if you are outside,” she said. “It only takes a few seconds or minutes to get frostbite or hypothermia from being in the cold. Wear layers, so you can be comfortable whatever temperature you are currently in. If you have to go out, make sure you are bundled appropriately. With hypothermia, people oftentimes don’t realize because it can cause you to become drowsy and sleepy as you get too cold.”

Ransom warned that the young and older populations are susceptible to these temperatures.

“Younger kids and older people need to stay in this week when it really gets bitterly cold, unless it is an emergency,” Ransom said. “Beware of the ice. You don’t want to fall and hurt yourself in this kind of weather. If you have to drive in this weather, make sure you have a safety kit — blankets and water — in your car as well.”

Those supplies may include several blankets, matches, candles, a clean can where you can melt snow into drinking water, a first-aid kit, dry or canned food, a can opener, tow rope, booster cables, compass, and a bag of sand or kitty litter to spread for traction if you’re stuck in the snow. If possible, travel with a fully-charged cellphone.