“Occupy Wall Street” Protesters Face Hazards from Cold Weather

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OWS during the snow storm. Photo by: David Shankbone

As the Occupy protests continue across the United States, many are beginning to experience the effects of winter. The winter months, in some parts of the United States, can be mild; other places are extremely harsh. According to Occupy Wall Street, many of the protests are occurring in the Northeast portion of the United States, which is naturally colder than the southern regions. As temperatures drop, protesters need to take caution to avoid hypothermia and frostbite.

Occupy Movement and Winter Weather

The Northeastern portion of the United States experiences some of the coldest and most severe winter weather. According to Tim Kiladze of Forbes, Cleveland experiences the worst of the winters followed by Boston, and New York City, which is currently undergoing record-low temperatures. With cold temperatures and snow already arriving in some occupy locations, protesters are getting prepared for living outside this winter.

Occupy Protesters Preparing for Cold Weather

Occupy movement protesters are resorting to various means of staying warm, from requesting donations to setting up insulation around tents. Two dozen protesters in Iowa, for example, have placed bags of leaves, cardboard, and hay bales around their tents to retain heat, according to the Chicago Sun Times.

With temperatures dropping and snow falling, regardless of cold weather supplies, protesters need to be prepared to recognize signs and symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite.

OWS Protesters continue through the snow. Long term exposure in the cold can lead to health problems. Photo by David Shankbone.

What is Hypothermia?

Hypothermia occurs when your body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. This happens when your body loses heat faster than it can generate heat. As your body temperature drops, organs such as the heart and lungs cannot work correctly and death can result. In addition to simple exposure to cold, and staying out in cold weather too long, you can also get hypothermia if you don’t wear enough clothes to keep warm, or if your clothes are wet or damp. Symptoms of hypothermia can include constant shivering, lack of coordination, slurred speech, confusion, trying to remove warm clothes, low energy, weak pulse, and shallow breathing. According to the Huffington Post, two protesters from Denver have already been hospitalized for hypothermia, which is a very serious condition; potentially fatal. If you’re out in the cold weather for any length of time, whether you’re a protester or a bystander, watch for symptoms in other people. It’s difficult to discern symptoms in yourself, since hypothermia occurs gradually over time.

What is Frostbite?

Severe frostbite. Photo by: Eli Duke

Frostbite is damage to the skin and underlying tissues due to exposure to extreme cold. This damage is most common on the extremities:  hands, feet, nose and ears. Frostbitten skin will be pale, hard, cold, and have no feeling. A case of severe frostbite may include skin that has blistered or has turned black. Medical attention is necessary to treat frostbite since a frostbite victim may also be hypothermic.

What Can Occupy Protesters Do to Stay Safe?

The simplest answer is to stay warm as much as possible, and monitor for signs of hypothermia and frostbite. In addition, protesters should stay hydrated with water and warm liquids. Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol, since they will only dehydrate you, and can lead to hypothermia.

Resources:

Huffington Post. “Occupy Wall Street Protesters Prepare for Winter Weather.” October 31, 2011. Accessed on October 31, 2011.

Mayo Clinic. “Hypothermia.” Accessed on October 31, 2011.

Medline Plus. “Frostbite.” Accessed on October 31, 2011.

Michael J. Crumb, “Occupy protesters prepare for cold Iowa winter.” Chicago Sun Times. October 30, 2011. Accessed on October 31, 2011.

Occupy Wall Street. “User Map.” Accessed on October 31, 2011.

Occupy Wall Street. “Urgent: Winter Donation Needs.” October 29, 2011. Accessed on October 31, 2011.

Tim Kiladze. “America’s Worst Winter Weather Cities.” Forbes. February 10, 2010. Accessed on October 31, 2011.

Wall Street Journal. “Wall Street protesters prepare for winter weather.” October 28, 2011. Accessed on October 31, 2011.

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© Copyright 2011 Janelle Vaesa, MPH, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Science
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