Frostbite and Hypothermia (NSC)
Cold weather can be dangerous for anyone who enjoys outdoor winter sports and people who work outdoors.
Before venturing outside in winter:
- Check the temperature and limit your time outdoors if it’s very cold, wet or windy
- Bundle up in several layers of loose clothing
- Wear mittens rather than gloves
- Cover your ears with a warm hat
- Wear socks that will keep your feet warm and dry
Frostbite is the most common injury resulting from exposure to cold, and it usually occurs on fingers, toes, nose, ears, cheeks and chin. If caught early, it is possible to prevent permanent damage, but frostbite can lead to amputation.
Superficial frostbite affects the skin surface, while deep frostbite affects all layers. The skin will become numb, blisters may form and eventually the skin tissue dies and turns black.
If you suspect frostbite:
- Move the victim indoors and seek medical attention immediately
- Remove constrictive clothing and jewelry that could impair circulation
- Place dry, sterile gauze between toes and fingers to absorb moisture and keep them from sticking together
- Elevate the affected area to reduce pain and swelling
- For superficial frostbite, you may also place the affected area in water that is 100 to 105 degrees until the tissue softens
Hypothermia occurs when body temperature drops below 95 degrees. Severe shivering is beneficial in keeping the body warm, but as hypothermia progresses, shivering gives way to drowsiness or exhaustion, confusion, shallow breathing, irregular heartbeat, slurred speech, loss of coordination, unconsciousness and death.
If you encounter someone suffering from hypothermia:
- Move the victim inside and remove any wet clothing
- Call for medical attention immediately
- Add blankets, pillows, towels or newspapers beneath and around the victim
- Cover the victim’s head
- Handle the victim gently to avoid cardiac arrest
- Keep the victim in a horizontal position
- If necessary, give CPR
Winter is fun. So go make those snow angels and tackle that double black diamond. Just make sure to limit exposure and bundle.
If you live in a cold climate, you’re more than aware of hazards that can make winter driving a nightmare, like white-outs, ice-covered roadways and frigid temperatures.
Be prepared to make sure winter road trips – and your daily commute – are safe:
Do not warm up your vehicle in a garage – even with the door open – because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning; more than 150 people die each year from non-fire related CO poisoning, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
- Keep your vehicle in top working condition; check ignition, brakes, wiring, hoses and fan belts, spark plugs, battery, tires and antifreeze level before the weather gets bad.
- You’ve done all you can to prepare, but suddenly you find yourself driving in a slippery mess; if visibility is severely limited due to a whiteout, pull off the road and don’t even attempt to drive until conditions improve.
- AAA offers a number of suggestions to avoid a skid, like not using cruise control, accelerating and decelerating slowly, and knowing how your antilock brakes work.
- Always keep an emergency kit in your car.