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Cold Injuries

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REMEMBER - THE BEST DEFENSE IS:
  • CARDIOVASCULAR FITNESS
  • GOOD NUTRITION
  • SENSIBLE CLOTHING

FROSTBITE

What it is

Frostbite is freezing of specific parts of the body.

What causes it

When exposed to cold, the body protects the inner core by constricting surface blood vessels. This results in decreased blood flow and heat to surface skin.

Where it occurs

Fingers and toes are most susceptible to frostbite but any part of the body exposed to cold air can be affected. Once a part has been frozen it is more liable to cold injuries on subsequent occasions.

How to recognize it

Frostbite is progressive:

What to do when it occurs

Frostnip is the only form of frostbite you can treat on the spot:

Treating Frostbite

How to prevent it

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HYPOTHERMIA

What it is

Hypothermia is a disease that can develop quickly and kill you. It is a condition of the body that occurs when the inner-core temperature drops to a level where the vital organs no longer function effectively.

What causes it

Hypothermia develops when your body loses more heat than it can produce. It is caused by exposure to cold, wet or windy conditions and fatigue. The greatest single factor to bring on hypothermia is improper clothing.

Where it occurs

Hypothermia can occur anywhere that the temperature is low enough to reduce the inner-core temperature of the body to the danger level. It occurs most frequently in rugged mountain terrain where a person on foot can pass from a calm and sunny valley to a wind and rain-lashed mountain ridge in a short time period. Most hypothermia accidents occur in outdoor temperatures between -1 and 10 degrees Celsius.

How to recognize it

What to do when it occurs

How to prevent hypothermia

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SNOW BLINDNESS

What causes it

Snow blindness is the result of the eyes being exposed to too much solar radiation.

What to do when it occurs

Apply cold compresses, retreat to a dark environment; cover both eyes to prevent eyeball motion. Pontocaine will temporarily allay the symptoms but it will not treat the condition.

How to prevent snow blindness

Wear good sunglasses.

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WINDBURN

What it is

A burn like irritation.

What to do when it occurs

Apply a grease or oil based ointment.

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SUNBURN

What it is

A first or second degree burn caused by exposure to the suns rays.

How to prevent it

Wear adequate clothing; apply opaque ointments or lotions containing aminobenzoic acid (PABA).

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EARACHE

What it is

An irritation of the eardrum caused by the wind.

How to prevent it

Place a plug of cotton or soft tissue in the outer ear canal.

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DRY SKIN

What causes it

Cold dry weather; excessive washing with soap.

What to do when it occurs

Apply animal or vegetable oils.

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DEHYDRATION

What causes it

Even in a cold environment the body loses two to five or more quarts of moisture per day. Dehydration makes the blood more viscous which lessens cardiac efficiency and decreases the body's ability to carry out its functions.

How to recognize it

Irritability, deep orange or brown urine, economy of movement, headaches, etc.

Treatment/Prevention

Adequate fluid intake.

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CHILL BLAINS

What causes it

Repeated exposure of bare skin to temperatures between 0 and 10 degrees C.

How to recognize it

The skin becomes red, rough, and itchy, but there is not loss of tissue.

Treatment

Apply a soothing ointment. Prevent further exposure.

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"FROSTBITE" OF THE LUNGS

What causes it

Heavy breathing in a very cold environment.

How to recognize it

Breathing discomfort, coughing, asthmatic type reactions, and coughing up blood.

Treatment/Prevention

Pre-warm the air with hoods, masks, or re-breathing tunnels, etc. Humidify the living environment. Eliminate smoking.

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IMMERSION FOOT (TRENCH FOOT)

What causes it

Exposure to wet conditions, usually above freezing, for hours or days. This can occur with skiers using ski boots made of non-breathable plastic materials, or if they are using a Vapour Barrier system. Wet socks in leather boots for extended periods of time can produce the same effect. Tissue damage may occur with no more moisture than condensed sweat inside plastic or rubberized boots.

How to recognize it

Cold, swollen, blanched feet that feel heavy and numb. There is a sensation of "walking on cotton wool". This stage is rapidly succeeded by one of hyperemia in which the feet are hot and red. This may persist for days or weeks. Swelling and pain may be severe, and blisters may form, leading even to gangrene. At this stage it may be difficult to differentiate from frostbite, but the damage to nerves and muscles may be longer lasting, and may even be permanent.

Treatment

Dry the feet, add warmth, and restore circulation.

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Last Update: 19-Sep-2008