In our third and final piece on how to Stay Safe in the Snow, we are sharing ways to avoid, recognize and treat hypothermia. In cold temperatures, the body cannot produce heat as fast as it’s losing it and this can lead to serious health problems. Hypothermia happens gradually and people become confused and unaware that this life threatening condition is happening to them.
- Dress appropriately! Make sure areas most likely to be affected by frostbite are covered including your nose, ears, cheeks, chin and fingers. It is best to dress in layers and it’s best if the outer layer is something wind and waterproof. As for the inner layers, go for wool or fleece. Do not wear cotton as the base layer. Because cotton retains moisture, dries slowly and loses its thermal properties causing your core temperature to drop.
- Carry at least one thermal heat blanket in your car’s emergency kit.
- Avoid activities where you might sweat a lot if possible. Stay as dry as possible.
- Rain, sweat or snow can cause hypothermia in temperatures as warm as 40 degrees Farenheit. Be aware!
- Uncontrollable shivering means the body cannot warm itself.
- Loss of coordination
- Slurred speech
- Difficulty forming thoughts/confusion
- Lack of energy/unconsciousness
- Weak pulse/shallow breathing
- If you cannot call 911 or get emergency help, the first thing to do is seek any kind of shelter you can find, the warmer the better.
- Remove wet clothes immediately. Get into dry clothes and/or layers of blankets. Skin to skin contact is beneficial.
- If using warming packs/compresses from a first aid kit, place them on the chest and groin area not the legs or arms. This will force cold blood to rush to the heart.
- Do NOT drench the body in hot water or rub skin vigorously as this is too taxing on the heart.
- It’s okay to drink warm liquids slowly but avoid alcohol and caffeine.
- Since skin may be numb, victims of frostbite may unintentionally harm themselves further. Do not walk on feet or toes affected by frostbite unless absolutely necessary for survival. Don’t rub or massage frostbit areas.Don’t use a fireplace, heat lamp, stove, heating pad or electric blanket for warming this can be damaging to the skin and if the heart is struggling, could cause cardiac arrest. It is good to place afflicted areas in warm-to-the-touch water, not hot.