How to Prevent Frostbite and Hypothermia
Prolonged exposure to low temperatures, wind or moisture - whether it is on a ski slope or in a stranded car - can result in cold-related illnesses such as frostbite and hypothermia. The National Safety Council offers these tips to help you spot and put a halt to these winter hazards:
How to detect and treat cold-related illnesses
Frostbite is the most common injury resulting from exposure to severe cold. Grey or yellowish patches on the affected areas characterize superficial frostbite. The skin remains soft and pliable, but becomes red and flaky after thawing. Treat superficial frostbite by taking the victim inside immediately and warming the affected areas with warm, not hot, water.
Deep frostbite usually affects the feet or hands and is characterized by waxy, pale, solid skin which may turn blue or purple upon thawing. Large blisters may also appear. Treat frostbite by moving the victim indoors and seeking medical attention immediately.
Hypothermia occurs when the body's temperature drops below 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptons of this condition include uncontrollable shivering, impaired speech and clumsy movements. Severe hypothermia may produce rigid muscles, dark and puffy skin, irregular heart and respiratory rates, and unconsciousness.
Treat hypothermia by protecting the victim from further heat loss and calling for immediate medical attention. Carefully remove the victim's clothing if it is wet, but avoid rubbing the victim's skin. Give artificial respiration or CPR (if you are trained) as necessary.
How to prevent cold-related illnesses
Avoid frostbite and hypothermia when you are exposed to cold termperatures by eating a well-balanced diet and drinking warm, non-alcoholic, caffeine-free liquids to maintain fluid levels.
Avoid becoming wet, as wet clothing loses 90 percent of its insulating value. Think ahead and wear warm clothing underneath rain gear.