Warning as Hong Kong’s cold snap continues with 10 more treated for hypothermia in hospital – but warmer weather on way at weekend
- Over the past three days, 32 patients were sent to hospital with the condition
Ten more people were treated for hypothermia in Hong Kong on Tuesday, with doctors warning the elderly to beware of the continued cold snap before temperatures warmed up at the weekend.
Over the past three days of chilly weather, a total of 32 patients were sent to hospital with the condition, which occurs when a person’s body loses heat faster than it can produce it, causing a dangerously low body temperature. One 90-year-old woman died from it on Sunday.
Wednesday is also forecast to be cold with the temperature ranging between 12 and 14 degrees Celsius, but the mercury is expected to rise over the following two days before reaching 22 degrees at the weekend.
A surge in the number of emergency visits meant patients had to wait for up to eight hours for non-urgent treatment at the busiest hospitals.
A total of 5,550 visits were made to emergency wards on New Year’s Eve, with Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tai seeing the highest volume of patients.
“Sudden temperature changes may also trigger heart attacks,” said Dr Leung Chi-chiu, a specialist in respiratory medicine. Respiratory infections were also more common during cold weather, he warned.
Asthma patients may also find their symptoms are exacerbated in winter.
Dr Lee Ka-hing, an emergency doctor at the private Union Hospital, urged those with elderly parents living on their own to check in on them regularly and make sure they had radiators and warm clothes.
“The main group at risk [of hypothermia] are the very old,” Lee said.
On the first day of 2019, six women and four men, aged 60 to 101, were treated for hypothermia. On New Year’s Eve, 13 men and three women, aged 29 to 94, were sent to public hospitals after a 90-year-old woman died and five others were treated for the condition on Sunday, a Hospital Authority spokesman said.
When the body’s temperature drops to between 28 and 30 degrees, it may damage the organs, including the brain.
People suffering from heart disease, respiratory illnesses or other chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension should also take extra measures to keep warm, the Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health said on Tuesday.
It also advised the public to avoid alcohol, which, contrary to popular belief, does not keep people warm or prevent hypothermia.
“Alcohol accelerates the loss of body heat through dilated blood vessels, resulting in chill instead,” a spokesman for the centre said.
Meanwhile, employers should make arrangements for employees who need to work outdoors or in remote areas and remind them to wear warm clothing, the Labour Department said. Workers should seek medical help immediately if they feel unwell, it said.
In January 2016, a polar vortex swept through Hong Kong and much of East Asia, with average temperatures in the city dropping to 3.1 degrees – the coldest since 1957.
Forty-five people were admitted to hospital, some for hypothermia, and primary school and kindergarten classes were suspended.