The winter season is quickly approaching. For some, that is exciting news: Light up nights, ice-skating, skiing, hot chocolate, holidays and the turn of a new year. In order to enjoy these festivities, let’s talk about how we can protect ourselves from various cold-related emergencies.
When exposed to cold temperatures, our bodies may lose more heat than we are able to produce. Unless addressed quickly, the core body temperature will become abnormally low. This can be life-threatening. Here are some signs and symptoms of hypothermia: shivering, cold and pale skin, drowsiness, exhaustion, slow breathing and pulse and unresponsiveness.
If you recognize these symptoms in yourself or others, it is very important to remove the person from the cold environment and CALL 9-1-1. Remove and replace wet garments that may be exacerbating the cold temperature as well. Lastly, slowly rewarm the patient using blankets until EMS arrives.
A frostbite is when a specific body part (commonly the fingers, toes, nose or earlobes) physically freezes. The affected body part may have a lack of feeling, a waxy appearance and/or discoloration. Additionally, this body part is often cold to the touch.
Similar to treating hypothermia, it is important to remove the person from the cold environment, remove and replace wet garments and CALL 9-1-1. While in a warm place, handle the affected part gently and apply dry, sterile dressings.
But remember, the best treatment is prevention! Take these steps to avoid both hypothermia and frostbite:
- Dress appropriately for the weather and avoid remaining in cold temperatures for prolonged periods of time.
- Drink plenty of warm fluids and avoid caffeine and alcohol.
- Get out of the cold if symptoms appear.
Now that we covered how to avoid, recognize and treat cold-related emergencies, go out there and enjoy the winter season! Wishing you all a safe, fun and memorable holiday season.