Inauguration Spectators Brave Frigid Temps

An inauguration spectator is wrapped in her scarf to stay warm.

Spectators on the National Mall are bundled up to watch the historic inauguration. John W. Poole/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption John W. Poole/NPR

A gleeful crowd at the nation's capital is facing below-freezing temperatures — and dozens of people have sought medical attention because they simply got too cold.

Some spectators spent the night on the National Mall to claim a prime viewing spot for the inauguration; others trickled in long before dawn, when the temperature in Washington was in the midteens. By 11:30 a.m., the temperature downtown registered at about 27 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Weather Service.

Some people have been sent to hospitals, according to NPR's Laura Sullivan. She says the first aid tent in the middle of the Mall is filled with people suffering from the effects of the cold. A few people came to the tent unconscious.

Warming tents and other facilities on the Mall opened late because traffic and crowds delayed staffers from reaching them.

People who go to the first aid tent who are cold but not in immediate danger of hypothermia have been instructed to go to museums to warm up, Sullivan says.

While not all cases of cold exposure lead to hypothermia, people who are exposed to very cold environments, whether air or water, can develop hypothermia after a relatively short time.

When your body temperature starts to dip below the normal 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, you may be unable to think clearly or move normally. Because your thinking is clouded, you may not realize you have hypothermia.

Treating Hypothermia

When the body's core temperature drops below 95 degrees, the situation is critical, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You should seek medical attention immediately. In extreme cases, people can get frostbite, lose fingers, toes or limbs, or even die.

However, as long as people seek treatment in time, hypothermia is survivable.

To treat hypothermia, emergency personnel would wrap them in blankets or other coverings and monitor breathing and start resuscitation if necessary.

At the hospital, medical personnel might give survivors warm fluids intravenously. If the hypothermia is severe, dialysis is sometimes used to circulate a person's blood through a warming machine before returning it to the body.

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