It is getting cold across the US, and with all 50 US states feeling freezing temperatures this week, it's that time to start thinking about how to stay safe in the cold and how to recognize the signs and symptoms of cold related emergencies.
Below is information on how to treat and recognize the signs and symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite as well as a few tips on how to stay safe and warm.
When exposed to cold temperatures, the body may lose more heat than it produces. Prolonged exposure to cold results in hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. This occurs even more quickly in the water than on land. Hypothermia is a serious condition, and may be life-threatening.
- Shivering (may eventually stop).
- Cold, pale skin.
- Drowsiness, exhaustion.
- Slow breathing and pulse.
- Move victim to a warm location.
- Call 9-1-1.
- Gently remove wet clothing, dry the skin, and replace with dry clothing. Cover the head and neck and wrap in blankets.
- If emergency help is delayed, gradually rewarm the person near a source of heat or with containers of warm water or heating pads. Keep barrier between the heat source and the skin.
- If alert, give warm liquids (no caffeine or alcohol).
- Monitor their response and breathing.
Frostbite is the actual freezing of body tissues. It usually affects the ears, nose, cheeks, hands and feet. Often a person does not realize he or she has frostbite because the frozen tissue is numb.
- Pale, cold, waxy skin.
- Painful burning sensation, or numbness.
- Blisters, hardened tissues.
- Move to a warm location.
- Call 9-1-1.
- Gently remove wet clothing, dry the skin, and replace with dry clothing.
- Remove rings, watches and bracelets.
- Cover with a dry, sterile dressing.
- Place frostbitten part next to your body.
- If emergency help is delayed, immerse the frostbitten part in warm water (100ºF-104ºF) for 20-30 minutes.
Remember . . .
- DO NOT rewarm with direct heat.
- DO NOT pop blisters.
- DO NOT rub affected area.
- DO NOT rewarm the part if it may refreeze.
Tips for Staying Safe (and warm)
- Dress warmly in layers and stay dry to avoid cold-related emergencies.
- Don't ignore shivering, and listen to what your body is telling you.
- For hypothermia to set in, the temperature doesn't need to be below freezing.
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