The cold weather during the winter season offers a variety of recreational opportunities. Even though it is fun to play and explore the outdoors, extreme low temperatures can lead to life-threatening health issues. This is true for young children and elderly who lose heat rapidly than others. The common cold-related conditions during cold weather include hypothermia and frostbite.
What is hypothermia?
Hypothermia is characterized as an abnormally low body temperature that occurs due to prolonged exposure to cold weather. Even though it is likely to occur in extreme cold conditions, an individual is also at risk in temperatures higher than 40 degrees F if he/she is wet from precipitation or sweat.
It is important to note that hypothermia can affect the brain, thus causing confusion. The individual might not even realize that he/she is already chilled. The other symptoms include shivering, drowsiness and exhaustion. An individual suffering from hypothermia might even become unconscious and stops breathing.
Remember that hypothermia is considered as a medical emergency. If medical care is not available, the initial move is to move the individual to a shelter or warm place. Wet clothing must be removed and cover him/her with warm blankets or clothing. In case the individual is conscious, provide warm non-alcoholic beverages to increase the body temperature and then seek medical care as soon as possible. You can learn more about these measures if you will register for first aid training today.
What is frostbite?
Frostbite can occur during cold weather especially if an individual is not dressed properly or if there are issues with circulation. Frostbite occurs once a body part freezes and most often occurs in exposed body parts such as the toes, fingers, ears, nose or cheeks.
The individual will develop white spots on the affected skin. The skin will also feel numb and painful. Frostbite can be managed by slowly thawing the affected area in warm water. Body heat can also be used by instructing the individual to place frostbitten fingers into his/her armpit. Medical care must be sought as soon as possible for further treatment of the condition.
Safety measures during cold weather
- Pay close attention to the weather. If high and steady winds are reported, body heat is lost quickly.
- It is important to dress using several layers of loose clothing. The inner layers must be able to trap the body heat yet allow the skin to breathe. Thermal underwear made out of wool, silk or polypropylene are recommended since they can capture heat and wick away moisture from the skin. As for the outer clothing, they should be wind resistant to minimize the loss of body heat.
- Use waterproof boots, gloves or mittens, hat and a mask or scarf to cover the mouth and nose.
- Cleats can be used for additional traction when walking on hard-packed snow or ice.
- Avoid the consumption of alcoholic beverages before going outdoors during cold weather since it will facilitate quick heat loss.
- Always have an emergency kit in your vehicle that includes a first aid kit, blankets, candles, waterproof matches, booster cables, windshield scraper, tool kit, flashlight and a can of compressed air.