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Extreme Cold

People often underestimate the risk of cold exposure.  They think they can be outside longer than they can and longer than what they are dressed for.

The two greatest concerns are Frostbite, which is when the body tissue freezes – and Hypothermia, when the body temp falls below 95 degrees F.

General Information:

  • Pay attention to the wind chill. There is a wind chill chart (below) that tells you how quickly frostbite will occur.
  • Stay indoors during extreme cold
  • Dress in layers of loose fitting warm clothing, hat, mittens (warmer than gloves), cover your mouth and as much exposed skin as possible
  • Protect your ears, nose, fingers, toes – as they are the most likely to get frostbite. That means wool hats, scarves, socks, warm mittens.
  • Stay dry and out of the wind as much as possible
  • Avoid Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Only use properly vented heating sources.
    • Only use generators and grills outdoors
    • Do not heat your room with a gas stove
  • Check on neighbors
  • Check on pets
  • Keep a full tank of gas in the car
  • If you are stranded in your car, do not leave the car. Run the car and heater for 10 minutes per hour until helps comes.
  • Keep an emergency kit in the car
    • Blankets(s)
    • Flashlight
    • Extra batteries
    • First aid kit
    • Whistle
    • Jumper cables
    • Ice scraper
    • Moist towelettes
    • Necessary prescription medicines
    • Cell phone charger
    • Flares

Hypothermia:

  • Occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can be replaced and the body tem drops below 95 degrees F.
  • Symptoms
    • Shivering initially, however that stops as the temp drops.
    • Lose coordination
    • Fumbles items in hands
    • Confusion and disorientation
    • Memory loss
    • Loss of consciousness

 

  • Treatment
    • Call 911 immediately in an emergency; otherwise seek medical assistance as soon as possible.
    • Move the person to a warm, dry area.
    • Remove wet clothes and replace with dry clothes, cover the body (including the head and neck) with layers of blankets; and with a vapor barrier (e.g. tarp, garbage bag). Donot cover the face.
    • If medical help is more than 30 minutes away:
      • Give warm sweetened drinks if alert (no alcohol), to help increase the body temperature. Never try to give a drink to an unconscious person.
      • Place warm bottles or hot packs in armpits, sides of chest, and groin. Call 911 for additional rewarming instructions.

Frost Bite:

  • Frostbiteis an injury to the body that is caused by freezing of the skin and underlying tissues. The lower the temperature, the more quickly frostbite will occur. Frostbite typically affects the extremities, particularly the feet and hands. Amputation may be required in severe cases.
  • Symptoms
    • Loss of feeling and color around the face, fingers and toes,
    • Reddened skin develops gray/white patches.
    • Numbness in the affected part.
    • Feels firm or waxy.
    • Blisters may occur in the affected part, in severe cases.

 

  • Treatment
    • Follow the recommendations described above for hypothermia.
    • Loosely cover and protect the area from contact.
    • Give warm sweetened drinks, if the person is alert. Avoid drinks with alcohol.
    • Do not rub the affected area to warm it because this action can cause more damage.
    • Do not apply snow/water. Do not break blisters.
    • Do not try to rewarm the frostbitten area before getting medical help; for example, do not place in warm water. If a frostbitten area is rewarmed and gets frozen again, more tissue damage will occur. It is safer for the frostbitten area to be rewarmed by medical professionals.