When your body loses heat faster than it can produce it, a situation may occur where all of your body's energy is used up trying to produce heat.The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature.
Victims of hypothermia are most often elderly people with inadequate food, clothing, or heating; babies sleeping in cold bedrooms; and people who remain outdoors for long periods -- the homeless, hikers, hunters, etc.
Each person is affected differently by the cold. Wet and cold can bring hypothermia on rapidly, or long exposure to the cold, rain, and wind can bring the symptoms of hypothermia on slowly.
Mild hypothermia occurs when the core body temperature is between 98.6° and 96°F. The core temperature for moderate hypothermia is 95° to 93°F. If your core temperature reaches 92° or below, you are in a life-threatening situation. This condition will affect your heart rate, blood flow, and ability to think clearly. Immediate attention is necessary.
Signs and Symptoms of hypothermia:
· confusion/memory loss
· slurred speech
· bright red, cold skin
· very low energy
If you believe you or someone else is suffering from hypothermia, it is imperative to get to a warm room or shelter and call for help. While you wait for help to arrive, remove any wet clothing and warm the center of the victim's body first. An electric blanket works well if one is available. Skin-to-skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing, towels, or sheets may also be effective. Drinking warm beverages -- NOT ALCOHOL -- will also help increase the body temperature. Once the body temperature has increased, keep the victim dry and wrapped in a warm blanket including the head and neck until help arrives.
If the victim is suffering from severe hypothermia, he or she may be unconscious and may not seem to have a pulse or appear to be breathing. In this case, you need to handle the victim gently, and get emergency assistance immediately.
It only takes a few minutes for exposed skin to become frostbitten if the temperature is below 20 F and the wind is blowing at 20 mph or more.
What is Frostbite?
When outside in the cold, your body is focused on maintaining its core temperature. To do that, it shifts blood away from the extremities and toward the central organs of the heart and lungs. This increases the risk of local cold injury such as frostbite to your extremities, particularly the feet and hands, and if uncovered, the nose, cheeks and ears on the head. We have even treated a case of frostbite of the corneas of the eyes at one x-c ski race.
Body tissues actually freeze when they are frostbitten. Ice crystals form in the cell, causing physical damage and permanent changes in cell chemistry. When the ice thaws, additional changes occur and may result in cell death.
If just the skin surface is affected, it's known as superficial frostbite; deep frostbite affects underlying tissues.
Anyone who is not dressed properly, is outside for too long, or gets wet in cold weather can get frostbite. It is easier to prevent frostbite than to treat it.
Dress for the weather, not against it. Wear light, layered clothing that provides ventilation as well as insulation. Wear a water-repellent, breathable shell on top.
Protect your head, hands and feet. COVER ALL EXPOSED SKIN! A number of new face masks specifically designed for winter athletes have come on the market in recent years. If you prefer to have your mouth and nostrils uncovered, consider putting moleskin or Vaseline on susceptible areas. Much of your body's heat loss occurs through your head and extremities. Helmets specifically designed for winter sports can protect your ears as well as your noggin, and also help retain body warmth. Goggles protect the eyes, and are less prone to fog up than sunglasses. Mittens are warmer than gloves. Wear wool or micro fleece socks and boots to keep your feet warm. Don't drink or smoke before going out into the cold. If you plan on being out in the cold for a prolonged period, don't drink alcohol or smoke. Alcohol and nicotine cause constriction of blood vessels and leave the skin more prone to thermal injury.
If you get wet, go inside. Keep your skin dry. Remove wet clothing as quickly as possible. Check yourself every half-hour or so for signs of frostbite. If your toes, fingers, ears or other body parts feel numb, get inside.
Hydrate! Drink plenty of fluids since hydration increases the blood's volume, which helps prevent frostbite. Adequate hydration helps sustain circulation
Skin feels frozen
Skin appears waxy, white, or grayish.
Frostbite can be very serious. If you suspect you have frostbite, seek medical care immediately.