Tips on keeping warm in D.C.

January 16, 2009 10:44:29 AM PST
The unprecedented crowds expected to pack Washington on Tuesday for the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama could face some of the coldest weather of the season, the National Weather Service says. The current outlook is for mostly cloudy skies with a chilly 34-degree high.

Prime dangers for those standing around outdoors for long periods include frostbite and hypothermia.

Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature drops below 95 degrees and it is potentially fatal. Warning signs include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion.

Exposed body parts such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the nose may develop frostbite. Warning signs include a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance.

In either case, prompt medical attention is needed.

The Weather Service offers these safety tips:
- Dress in several layers of loose-fitting clothing to create pockets of insulating warm air.

- Wear wool or fleece fabrics, not cotton as it dries slowly.

- Wear warm socks with a thermal sock liner; comfortable, closed shoes; a scarf, hat and earmuffs to prevent loss of body heat.

- A water repellent, hooded outer garment adds extra protection.

- Mittens are better than gloves at keeping hands warm.

- Walk around or move in place to increase circulation and generate additional body heat.

- Drink warm beverages. Do not drink alcohol as it will cause a loss of body heat by dilating blood vessels.

- Seek shelter indoors periodically to warm up.

- Watch out for the elderly and very young as they are most at-risk.