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Cold Stress Cautions

| Chaizong Lor

Undeniably, we are all exposed to the cold during winter in Eau Claire. Recognizing the potential hazards, symptoms, and prevention techniques can help keep everyone safe and healthy this season.

What is cold stress?

Cold stress occurs by driving down the skin temperature, and eventually the internal body temperature. When the body is unable to maintain heat independently, serious cold-related illnesses, injuries, tissue damage, and death can occur.

Types of Cold Stress include trench foot, frostbite, and hypothermia

General Information

Susceptibility Factors

  • Exhaustion
    • Tolerance for cold diminishes fatigue
  • Young Age
  • Medication/Medical Conditions
    • Some medications interfere with regulations of body temperature
    • Predisposing health conditions can increase susceptibility
  • Medical Conditions
  • Exposure
    • Combination of time and environment


  • Coverage
    • As little skin exposed as possible
  • Dry Layers
    • Do not wear wet clothing
    • Wet clothes should be dried thoroughly
  • Hydration and Fuel
    • A snack and some water can help reduce exhaustion when entering a cold environment

Immersion/Trench: The non-freezing injury of the feet due to prolonged exposure to wet and cold conditions

Symptoms: reddening skin, tingling, pain, swelling, leg cramps, numbness, and blisters

First Aid: Call 911 or seek medical attention, remove wet shoes/boots and socks, dry feet and keep feet elevated, do not continue working or walking on feet

Frostbite: The freezing of skin and tissue

Symptoms: White/grey patches on skin, tingling, aching, numbness, skin is firm/hard or blistered.

First Aid: Wrap effected area loosely in dry cloth, protect skin from further exposure, seek medical attention immediately, give warm sweetened drinks

DO NOT: Rub affected areas, apply snow to damaged skin, give affected person alcohol

Hypothermia:  Body temperature (98.6 F) drops to less than 95 F due to exposure to cold

Symptoms: Uncontrollable shivering, loss of coordination, confusion, slurred speech, reduced heart rate/breathing, unconsciousness

First Aid: Call 911/seek medical attention immediately, move affected person to warm dry area, remove any wet clothing and replace with dry layers, wrap whole body (including head and neck, not face) in blankets, add a vapor layer (tarp, garbage bag)

            If medical help is more than 30 minutes away

  • Give warm sweetened drinks if conscious and alert
  • Place warm bottles or hot packs in armpits, sides of chest, and groin
  • Call 911 for additional rewarming instructions


Alcohol and the cold are a lethal combination. Alcohol works as a vasodilator, meaning the blood vessels will constrict causing a false sensation of warmth taking heat from the organs and decreasing the overall core body temperature. The false sensation of heat and intoxication make a person more susceptible to cold stress, risky behavior, and in some cases death. If you plan to be in cold conditions for an extended period, please reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption.