With extremely cold temperatures predicted this week, Evanston Health Department Director Evonda Thomas-Smith reminds residents of the importance of staying warm and safe in the extremely cold temperatures to which they may be exposed over the next few days. Exposure to cold temperatures, whether indoors or outdoors, can be dangerous to anyone, but particularly to the elderly, infants and young children, persons with disabilities and people on certain medications.

The City of Evanston reminds residents that its community centers and the Evanston Public Libraries will be open during their regular hours of operation listed below. Those residents who are in need of shelter overnight should call 911 for assistance.

  • Robert Crown Center, 1701 Main St., 5 a.m. to midnight – seven days a week
  • Fleetwood-Jourdain Center, 1655 Foster St., 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday; closed on Sunday.
  • Levy Senior Center, 300 Dodge Ave., 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
  • Chandler-Newberger Center, 1028 Central St., 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Friday; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday; closed on Sunday.
  • Main Library, 1703 Orrington Ave., 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
  • North Branch Library, 2026 Central St., 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday; closed on Thursday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Closed onSunday. 
  • Chicago Ave./Main St. Branch Library, 900 Chicago Ave., 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday; closed on Thursday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday andSaturday. Closed on Sunday.

The Evanston Health Department warns of the health dangers associated with extreme low temperatures and shares the following useful information:

Hypothermia – the most serious of cold-related illnesses. Hypothermia is the result of prolonged exposure to cold. When a person experiences hypothermia, their body temperature is so low that it affects the brain, making the person unable to think clearly or move well. The warning signs for adults are shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling of hands, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness. Warning signs for infants are bright, red-colored skin and very low energy. What to do if you experience hypothermia:

  • If body temperature is below 95 degrees Fahrenheit, seek medical attention immediately.
  • If medical attention is not available, get to a warm room or shelter, remove any wet clothing, begin warming the body from the center of the body out, drink warm beverages and keep the body dry.

Frostbite – a milder form of cold-related illnesses. Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. It causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas, most often the face and extremities. Frostbite can severely damage the body and lead to amputation. The warning signs of frostbite are white or grayish-yellow skin areas, skin that feels unusually firm or waxy and numbness. What to do if you experience frostbite:

  • If you detect symptoms of frostbite, seek medical care.
  • If medical attention is not available, and there no signs of hypothermia, get to a warm room or shelter, do not walk on frostbitten areas, immerse the affected area in warm (not hot) water, warm the affected area using body heat – but do not rub the area and do not a use a heating pad, lamp or other heat-producing electrical devices.

Dressing for the cold – If you need to be outside, the following suggestions will help keep you warm and protect your body from excessive heat loss.

  • Wear several layers of lightweight clothing, rather than one or two layers of heavy garments. The air between the layers of clothing acts as insulation to keep you warmer.
  • Cover your head. You lose as much as 50 percent of your body heat through your head.
  • Wear mittens rather than fingered gloves.
  • Wear warm leg coverings and heavy socks or two pairs of lightweight socks.
  • Wear waterproof boots or sturdy shoes that give you maximum traction.
  • Cover your ears and the lower part of your face. The ears, nose, chin and forehead are most susceptible to frostbite. Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect the lungs from directly inhaling extremely cold air.

Shoveling – Cold weather itself, without any physical exertion, puts an extra strain on your heart. Know your limits when shoveling snow, especially if you do not exercise regularly. If you have a history of heart trouble or any chronic health concerns, talk to your health care provider before shoveling snow. You should rest frequently and pace yourself when shoveling. Remember to lift the snow with your legs, not your back. If you use a snow blower, never use your hands to unclog the machine. If you become breathless, stop, go indoors and warm up before continuing. If you experience chest or arm pain or numbness, stop immediately and go indoors; you may need to call 9-1-1. Overexertion can cause sore muscles, falls and heart attacks.

The City of Evanston’s Snow Shoveling Program connects residents with volunteers who are willing to provide snow shoveling services to seniors and disabled persons. For more information, visit cityofevanston.org/snowshoveling or call/text 847-448-4311.

Heating Safety – For people still needing to use alternative sources of heat, keep in mind:

  • Any heater that uses wood, coal, natural gas or kerosene produces carbon monoxide (CO), so adequate ventilation is essential.
  • Never use a generator indoors, even with open doors or windows.
  • Do not use charcoal or gas grills indoors.
  • Do not use a gas oven to heat your home.

You cannot see or smell carbon monoxide (CO), but at high levels it can kill a person in minutes. Symptoms of mild to moderate CO poisoning include headaches, dizziness, nausea and lethargy. Higher levels of CO exposure can cause fainting, confusion and collapse and, if exposure continues, death can result.

How to prevent cold-related illnesses

  • Conserve heat within the home by avoiding extra ventilation.
  • Monitor your body temperature.
  • Keep a water supply.
  • Eat and drink wisely by consuming well-balanced meals; avoid alcoholic or caffeinated beverages.
  • Dress warmly and stay dry.
  • Avoid exertion.
  • Understand wind-chill.
  • Be cautious about travel.

For more information or updates, call/text 847-448-4311 or visit cityofevanston.org. For convenience, Evanston residents can simply dial 3-1-1.