Cold weather may have taken over in many parts of the country, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay indoors all winter. Here are some cold weather safety practices and emergency response tips to help keep your family safe, so everyone can enjoy the great outdoors this season.
Dressing for Cold Weather
The Centers for Disease Control provides these tips for staying warm and dry throughout the winter storm season.
1. Adults and children should wear a hat, a scarf to cover the face and mouth, sleeves that are snug at the wrist, warm mittens, and water-resistant coat and boots.
2. Wear several layers of loose-fitting clothing.
- Inner layer – This is the layer closest to your body. Wear fabrics that will hold body heat and don’t absorb moisture (ex: wool, silk, or polypropylene).
- Insulation layer – This layer will help you retain heat by trapping air close to your body. Choose clothing items that are made of natural fibers (ex: wool, goose down, or fleece).
- Outer layer – This is the outermost layer that helps protect you from wind, rain, and snow. Wear pieces that are tightly woven and water and wind resistant.
3. Remove extra layers when you start to feel too warm. Excess sweating will cause you to lose more heat.
4. Stay dry and always remove wet clothing which can quickly chill the body.
For more cold weather tips, visit the CDC website.
Treating Cold-Related Injuries
In cold environments, the skin and underlying body tissue can become very cold and even freeze. Commonly exposed areas like the ears, nose, cheeks, hands, and feet are more susceptible to extreme cold and can result in injury.
Non-freezing cold injury, or frostnip. This injury doesn’t result in the freezing of skin or tissue, but rather, lowers the temperature of that area. It typically doesn’t cause permanent damage if treated promptly. Symptoms of a non-freezing injury include a pins-and-needles sensation, tingling, or throbbing. These injuries can be treated by:
- Protecting the affected area from further exposure and relocating the person to a warmer environment.
- Remove jewelry and wet clothes.
- Use skin-to-skin contact to gently warm the affected areas (ex: tucking hands into armpits)
- Avoid direct heat sources as they may cause burns.
Frostbite. This injury occurs when the skin and underlying body tissue freezes. Frostbite can permanently damage the affected area and requires professional medical care. Symptoms include pale, cold, waxy skin; painful burning sensation or numbness; and blisters or hardened tissue. If you notice signs of frostbite, move the person to a warm location and call 911. Do not attempt to rewarm the area with direct heat, rub the affected area or pop any blisters.
If emergency help is delayed, immerse the frostbitten area in warm water (just above normal body temperature) for 20-30 minutes – but only if there isn’t a chance that the part could refreeze.
To learn more about emergency care treatments for cold-related injuries and other medical emergencies, locate a CPR, AED and First Aid Instructor near you.