The cold weather is here-colder and earlier than normal. With the sudden drop in temperature we can be caught off guard when outside for long periods of time. In addition, many people don’t know that cold weather can lower their body temperature to dangerous levels until it has happened. The bottom line is that dressing in warm layers can go a long way to preventing hypothermia and frostbite when we need to be outside to get things done.
A drop in body temperature causing hypothermia can cause a coma or even be fatal, especially if the body is also wet. Hypothermia can also cause stiff joints, slurred speech, mental confusion, shivering, slow pulse, and a loss of coordination. Frostbite can result in the loss of limbs, toes and fingers are especially susceptible. When skin is frostbitten it will become white and circulation will decrease. In the worst cases, blisters form on the skin.
Prevent Frostbite & Hypothermia
The most important thing to preventing cold weather maladies is to cover your skin with warm cotton or lightweight wool layers, starting with long underwear. We lose a lot of heat out of our neck and heads so wearing a warm hat and scarf or other neck covering is important. Warm gloves will also help to protect your hands and fingers. Your clothing should be loose, not clingy. If you are out in the cold and realize that you haven’t dressed warmly enough than cover yourself with anything that you can to preserve body heat including paper, pillows, blankets, and jackets. If you body gets wet then immediately take your clothes off so you can dry; it is safer to be naked than wet. Prevent getting wet by having access to proper raingear including a good raincoat and boots. Bring an extra pair of warm, dry socks and gloves. If you find that you are getting too warm then you can always remove a layer.
If you get into a car accident when the temperature is at or below freezing, protect yourself from the cold while you wait for help. If you have extra clothes, put them on immediately. If you have a garbage bag then cut holes for your head and arms and wear it to retain body heat. If your car is still able to run then ensure that the tailpipe is clear and turn on the heater. Let it run for 15 minutes at a time and then wait 30 minutes to preserve gas. Do not leave the vehicle.
- Do not ever rub the frozen part of the body with snow.
- Use extra layers like a blanket or clothing to cover the frozen area.
- If possible, get out of the cold and inside somewhere warm.
- You can run warm water or immerse the skin in warm water but NEVER in hot water.
- If the area is not regaining color and circulation, seek professional medical attention.
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