- Parklands XC Ski Club, Tour Leader Program.
REMEMBER - THE BEST DEFENSE IS:
What it isFrostbite is freezing of specific parts of the body.
What causes itWhen 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 occursFingers 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 itFrostbite is progressive:
- Frostnip - The skin turns white and becomes numb;
- Superficial Frostbite - The tissue beneath the surface feels soft and resilient;
- Deep Frostbite - The tissue beneath the surface feels hard and wooden.
What to do when it occursFrostnip is the only form of frostbite you can treat on the spot:
- act now - hold hands over face and warm with breath;
- re-warm fingers under armpits or between thighs;
- apply firm steady pressure, do not rub;
- if toes are affected, remove boots and hold feet between hands or place on a friend's stomach (keep foot covered with layers of clothing); or
- if feeling fails to return, or if skin remains white assume you have a case of superficial frostbite.
- DO NOT ATTEMPT TO REWARM. Get to a doctor or hospital as soon as possible. The victim can walk or ski on frozen feet without further damage;
- if frozen feet are re-warmed in the field the person immediately becomes a stretcher case. You have an emergency on your hands requiring outside help and a possible overnight survival situation. Should the affected part become frozen again while waiting for rescue, further damage will be caused to the tissue;
- NEVER rub the affected part with your hand or with snow; and
- NEVER try to re-warm in front of a fire.
How to prevent it
- To resist frostbite your body needs to be healthy. Do not venture out in very cold weather if you are feeling tired or suffering from a cold or the flu;
- Avoid tight-fitting clothes. Use the layer principle;
- Tight boots constrict circulation and create cold spots. Laces should be loosely done up;
- In windy conditions, put on windproof clothing. Put on overmitts, overboots, or oversocks before you get too cold. Protect your face with a balaclava or scarf;
- Do not touch cold metal with bare fingers (i.e. cameras, metal canteens, ski bindings, snow shovel.);
- At lunch break insulate your feet by keeping your skis or snowshoes on;
- Carefully watch your companions for signs of frostnip appearing on the face. Cheeks and chin are the usual places affected;
- If your feet become numb, wiggle your toes vigorously. If this doesn't work STOP AT ONCE, remove boots and re-warm. Even though the laces may be frozen and hard to undo, persevere;
- Forget about smoking on the trail. Nicotine constricts surface blood vessels, predisposing the smoker to frostbite. The temperature of fingers and toes can drop as much as 5 degrees Celsius;
- Do not overheat. Perspiration leads to more cooling; and
- Stay dry, including your feet.
What it isHypothermia 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 itHypothermia 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 occursHypothermia 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
- In the early stages, hypothermia may be confused with fatigue or intoxication. It is important to remember that the victim is unable to recognize his condition. He may insist that he is fine. Children and adolescents are at particular risk; they have less endurance than adults, tire more easily and are unable to pace themselves. Leaders of youth groups must be constantly on the lookout for early symptoms. Treatment must be prompt;
- The victim feels chilled and begins to shiver uncontrollably;
- As surface blood vessels contract in the body's first defense mechanism, hands become stiff and fumbling;
- The person is unable to think clearly. He cannot make decisions, his speech may be slurred, and he becomes unresponsive to people around him. Often he acts in a totally different manner to normal;
- He stumbles frequently, cannot pick himself up. Shivering may stop at this point;
- The victim has an overwhelming urge to sleep. He lapses into a stupor and finally unconsciousness;
- Death is caused by heart failure.
What to do when it occurs
- Death may occur within one hour of the onset of hypothermia.
- ACT QUICKLY: PREVENT FURTHER HEAT LOSS.
- In the early stages, stop and put on more clothing. Nibble high energy foods. Transfer body heat from other members of the group. Build a fire. Although the victim may appear fully recovered and wish to continue with the tour, turn back.
Treatment in the later stages of hypothermia is much more difficult. Because the
person has lost the ability to produce heat, outside heat must be added:
- Move the victim out of the wind into the shelter of trees or a boulder. If you have a tent, put it up quickly and get him inside.
- Make sure the victim is insulated from ground snow by packs, boughs, etc.
- Remove any wet clothing and replace with dry.
- Put the victim in a sleeping bag if you have one. Get another person to strip to their underclothes and transfer heat by body contact.
- If you do not have a sleeping bag, other members of the party should huddle around the victim in an attempt to transfer warmth. Get a good fire going.
- If the victim is conscious give hot sweet drinks like Jell-O or easily digested carbohydrate foods like candies, sugar lumps and dextrose.
- If semi-conscious, try to keep the victim awake at all costs. Give hot drinks.
- Although the victim is unconscious and may even appear to be dead, redouble your efforts to transfer heat. Well wrapped hot rocks from the fire or metal canteens filled with hot water placed inside the sleeping bag will help.
- Two strong tourers must go for outside help. The rest of the party should make every effort not to become hypothermic themselves. Keep busy. Build a fire and emergency shelters in case the wait for help becomes a long one.
How to prevent hypothermia
- Eat a good breakfast before setting out on the tour. Fats and proteins will supply a constant source of heat throughout the day. During the tour, stop several times to eat high energy foods like chocolate bars, gorp, fruit cake;
- Keep heat in by dressing sensibly. Use the layer principle and include at least one layer of wool. Be particularly careful in windy conditions. Make sure that your outer layer of clothing is windproof and that your extremities are given extra protection;
- Be fit. Fatigue is often associated with hypothermia. Good technique (skiing) will reduce fatigue;
- Breathing through a scarf or the high collar of a sweater can reduce loss of heat by respiration. In this way, air can be re-warmed and pre-humidified before going into the lungs;
- Take care crossing lakes or rivers. Be wary of thin ice where rivers enter or leave lakes. Cross rivers at their widest points where the current is slowest;
- Prevent dehydration by the intake of liquids;
- The body temperature can drop considerably during a lunch break. As soon as you stop, put on your down jacket even though you may be hot from exercise. Conserve heat. During very cold weather, several short five minute breaks for food are better than one long lunch break;
- Don't drink alcohol if you are tired and haven't eaten for some time. Alcohol blocks the release of glucose into the bloodstream and causes a drastic drop in core body temperature; and
- If you cannot seem to keep warm on a tour, turn back. You may save your life.
What causes itSnow blindness is the result of the eyes being exposed to too much solar radiation.
What to do when it occursApply 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 blindnessWear good sunglasses.
What it isA burn like irritation.
What to do when it occursApply a grease or oil based ointment.
What it isA first or second degree burn caused by exposure to the suns rays.
How to prevent itWear adequate clothing; apply opaque ointments or lotions containing aminobenzoic acid (PABA).
What it isAn irritation of the eardrum caused by the wind.
How to prevent itPlace a plug of cotton or soft tissue in the outer ear canal.
What causes itCold dry weather; excessive washing with soap.
What to do when it occursApply animal or vegetable oils.
What causes itEven 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 itIrritability, deep orange or brown urine, economy of movement, headaches, etc.
Treatment/PreventionAdequate fluid intake.
What causes itRepeated exposure of bare skin to temperatures between 0 and 10 degrees C.
How to recognize itThe skin becomes red, rough, and itchy, but there is not loss of tissue.
TreatmentApply a soothing ointment. Prevent further exposure.
"FROSTBITE" OF THE LUNGS
What causes itHeavy breathing in a very cold environment.
How to recognize itBreathing discomfort, coughing, asthmatic type reactions, and coughing up blood.
Treatment/PreventionPre-warm the air with hoods, masks, or re-breathing tunnels, etc. Humidify the living environment. Eliminate smoking.
IMMERSION FOOT (TRENCH FOOT)
What causes itExposure 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 itCold, 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.
TreatmentDry the feet, add warmth, and restore circulation.