Paramedics monitor vitals in bitter cold

Published On: Feb 05 2014 10:09:23 PM CST   Updated On: Feb 05 2014 10:43:23 PM CST

With the temperature dropping so low, we wondered how fast the cold could harm your body inside a vehicle. Eyewitness News asked two Butler County paramedics to monitor reporter Lauren Seabrook to show how important prepping your car is in case you go off the road and get stuck.

The paramedics invited Lauren into their ambulance to check her vitals in a warm environment. Her starting blood pressure was 118 over 80 and heart rate was 80 beats per minute. "Your vitals are looking great. Everything we'd expect to see in a normal human set of vitals," said paramedic Ryan Adelson.

She left the warm ambulance and got into a cold car, parked in the shade. At the time, the outside temperature was eight degrees.

After five minutes paramedics checked Lauren's vitals. Her blood pressure and heart rate stayed the same. So she closed the door of the car and waited a little while longer.

Around the 13 minute mark her muscles started to feel stiff. The paramedics checked Lauren's vitals again. After only 15 minutes, her heart rate jumped from 80 bmp to 100 bmp and her blood pressure went down to 100 over 70. "My legs are starting to feel pretty tight. My body's feeling tight. Mainly it's the muscles," she said.

Lauren's plan was to stay in the car for 30 minutes but at around 25 minutes she's feeling uncomfortable and wants the paramedics to check her again.

"106 over 78," said paramedic Joe Menadue. Her blood pressure is back up but her heart rate stays the same, right at 100 beats per minute. "You're fluctuating. If your heart rates going up that's going to kick your blood pressure back up," said Menadue.

Menadue says that fluctuation is a reaction to the body working hard to pump blood. Lauren tries to make it a little while longer but at 30 minutes she feels numb and decides to stop. "Your body right now is trying to protect what's necessary to live by keeping you warm and by sending everything to the core," said Menadue.

The paramedics say people should pack blankets in their car and a candle with matches. They highly discourage travel during incredibly cold periods, but say if you must go out you should layer up like your life depends on it. "It really demonstrates the importance of being prepared for an incident like this, especially in rural areas," said Adelson. "If you're out in a ditch somewhere it could really be days before you get discovered and the proper help can get to you."

Lauren left the cold car and got back into the warm ambulance for a final vital check. "I'm having to work harder to breathe," she said.

"One of the signs is definitely slowing respiration," said Adelson.

Her blood pressure went back to 100 over 70 and her heart rate stayed high. She says her motor skills slowed and she felt a little disoriented. Menadue says your mind can also feel the effects when your body works to keep blood near your heart.

Both paramedics agree the experiment shows just how fast the bitter cold can harm your body.

"We just hate to see families ruined and people's lives taken because they didn't prioritize. Sometimes it's okay just to be at home for a day or two," said Adelson.