|December 5, 2013
Be careful of winter frostbite and hypothermia
Frostbite in mild cases is sometimes called frost nip when only the outer layer of skin freezes. When frostbite is severe, skin and underlying tissues, such as blood vessels, fat, muscle and bone, freeze. Ears, nose, hands and feet are particularly susceptible. Risk of frostbite increases in people with circulation problems, such as diabetics.
To prevent frostbite wear gloves or mittens, the latter provide more warmth. Wear waterproof, insulated boots to keep feet warm and dry and to maintain footing in ice and snow. Wear a hat that covers the ears and a scarf that covers the mouth and nose.
Signs of problems include gray, white or yellow patches on the skin or skin that feels waxy and has little or no sensation to feel. Blood flow stops in frostbitten skin, and the area must be thawed and re-warmed to prevent gangrene and infection. Severe cases can result in amputation.
If the skin does not return to normal color after applying gentle pressure, seek medical attention. Warm the area slowly using body heat, such as a warm hand, or warm water. Do not use direct or intense heat and do not massage the area.
Hypothermia happens when the body can no longer regulate itself and drops its core temperature to 95 degrees or lower. Hypothermia can set in at temperatures as warm as 40 degrees especially if a person gets wet.
To help prevent hypothermia wear a hat, preferably one that covers the ears. Most body heat is lost through the scalp. Stay dry. Dress warmly, in layered clothes that wick moisture away from the skin, while outdoors.
Signs of problems include uncontrolled shivering, dizziness, exhaustion, poor coordination, confusion and mumbling. Get the person into dry clothes or a sleeping bag to warm them slowly. Apply heat to the body’s core, but not the limbs. Have him huddle close to a warm, dry person and give him a warm beverage.
The danger: Hypothermia can lead to loss of consciousness or cardiac arrest and death.