Frostbite and Hypothermia.. What Is It and How to Stay Safe
Frostbit and Hypothermia safety
It is New England and while the weather so far this season has lent itself to being a mild one we are not out of the woods yet. Typically a mild December lends itself to wild weather at the end of January and February. Many days have allowed those die hard New Englanders to continue to tough it out with shorts and tee shirts. That being said it is a good time for a reminder about how quickly our weather can change and what you can expect in the new two coming months.
This is a very big concern that many all too often through caution to the wind. We wear the shorts, do not use the gloves, grab the flip flops and socks (WHY WHY JUST WHY), those high fashion shoes that go with your outfit that you cannot even walk on and if it is not a baseball hat who needs it. Well you do!! We have had a lot of wind this season. The wind takes those mild temperatures we have had and drastically alters them. The wind pushes the air allowing it to move through clothing easier. It also brings the real feel temperature down. If you do not have the right clothing. When you are trying to look a part you run the risk of some very severe consequences.
What is frostbite and how to tell if you have it.
There are two stages to frostbite Superficial frostbite and traditional frostbite. With any frostbite the extremities are more susceptible. Fingers, toes, nose, ears, cheeks, and chins. Some of the first indicators of frostbite are extremities start to turn red. You may also have a feeling of pins and needles in the area being affected by the cold. It can start to sting, burn or even become itchy. Looking at the color is essential it can initially be red but will start to turn gray or white maybe even a little yellow looking as the tissue becomes more damaged. If you do not rectify these issues soon enough and in the right way your skin may start to become hard and feel waxy as the cold gets into the deep parts of the tissue. Blisters may start to form especially you try to warm up the affected area the improper way.
What you should do if you suspect you are getting frostbite. First and foremost get out of the cold. Get any wet clothes off, and also get any jewelry off as it will be cold. You can put the affected area into warm water between 100-105 degrees to warm it up slowly. You can also individually wrap the area with a gauze. If your hands or feet were affected it is important that you wrap each one separately. If you are unsure about how your feeling always check with a professional and seek out emergency help right away. Once color changes start to set in you can have permanent damage up to and including amputation.
This type of issue is much more drastic and affects the entire bodies core temperature when the core temperature drops to 95 and below is when trouble starts. The body tries to protect itself but routing blood to vital organs and extremities. This can result in a dangerous situation. As with any uncertainty it is imperative to seek out professional medical assistance. Until that happens there are steps you can take to help the person. Remove any wet clothes, get them into a warm environment. Surround them with warm layers of blankets and pillows for insulation. Make sure you are covering feet, hands, arms, head. It is also important to lay them down to make sure that the blood can flow easily and reduces how hard the heart has to work to move the blood around. Do not move anyone suspected of hypothermia too quickly because they are more susceptible to a cardiac event. Should something happen CPR may need to be administered until help arrives.
There are 3 stages of hypothermia they are all based on the ambient temperature of the body.
Mild: 90-95 degrees: The body tries to protect itself by increasing rate of breathing to pull in more oxygen to improve blood flow. It will also start to make you feel tired and fatigued so that major organs get more care. Blood pressure will tend to rise and shivering will commence. Coordination and judgment will begin to be impaired.
Moderate: 82.4-90 degrees: At this stage the blood pressure tends to start falling, your reflexes are more affected. Breathing heart rate and coordination become more labored and more difficult.
Severe: Less than 82.4 degrees: This is a highly critical stage in which breathing is much more difficult as the body tries to protect the brain. Your pupils will become less reactive heart attacks and full heart failure are more predominant at this point. Risk for a pulmonary edema is likely at this point.
Keep an eye out for any of these issues and try to get into a warm safe place as soon as possible. Once memory becomes impaired there is a tendency and desire to remove clothes. They can become combative and irrational.
While we are hardy New Englanders we can be too hardy and stubborn at time. The desire to look fashionable and show we can handle the cold. This can prove to have dire consequences. Please pay attention to the weather, include the wind chill in your assessment, stay alert (you are not being a baby), be smart. Making winter fun requires a little bit of safety awareness.