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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Cold Weather Injuries and Treatment

Cold injuries:


Is a progressive injury. Intense shivering with impaired ability to perform complex tasks and leads to violent shivering, difficulty speaking, sluggish thinking, which leads to muscular rigidity with blue, puffy skin; jerky movements and ultimately leads to coma, respiratory and cardiac failure.

Protect victim from the environment as follows:

·Remove wet clothing.
·Put on dry clothing (if available).
·Prevent further heat loss.
·Cover top of head.
·Insulate from above and below.
·Warm with blankets, sleeping bags, or shelter.
·Warm central areas before extremities.
-Place heat packs in groin, armpits, and around neck.
·Avoid causing burns to skin.

CAUTION: Handle hypothermia victim gently. Avoid overly rapid rewarming which may cause cardiac arrest. Rewarming of victim with skin-to-skin contact by volunteer(s) inside of a sleeping bag is a survival technique but can cause internal temperatures of all to drop.


Frostbite occurs when tissues freeze. This condition happens when you are exposed to temperatures below the freezing point of skin. Hypothermia is the condition of developing an abnormally low body temperature. Frostbite and hypothermia are both cold-related emergencies.

Although frostbite used to be a military problem, it is now a civilian one as well. The nose, cheeks, ears, fingers, and toes (your extremities) are most commonly affected. Everyone is susceptible, even people who have been living in cold climates for most of their lives.

In conditions of prolonged cold exposure, your body sends signals to the blood vessels in your arms and legs telling them to constrict (narrow). By slowing blood flow to the skin, your body is able to send more blood to the vital organs, supplying them with critical nutrients, while also preventing a further decrease in internal body temperature by exposing less blood to the outside cold.

As this process continuous and your extremities (the parts farthest from your heart) become colder and colder, a condition called the hunter's response is initiated. Your blood vessels are dilated (widened) for a period of time and then constricted again. Periods of dilatation are cycled with times of constriction in order to preserve as much function in your extremities as possible.

However, when your brain senses that you are in danger of hypothermia (when your body temperature drops significantly below 98.6 F), it permanently constricts these blood vessels in order to prevent them from returning cold blood to the internal organs. When this happens, frostbite has begun. (source:Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD)

Frostbite Treatment

•Keep the affected body part elevated in order to reduce swelling

•Move to a warm area to prevent further heat loss. Avoid walking on frostbitten feet as this can lead to further damage.

•Note that many people with frostbite may be experiencing hypothermia. Saving their lives is more important than preserving a finger or foot.

•Remove all wet clothing and constrictive jewelry because they may further block blood flow.

•Give the person warm, nonalcoholic, non-caffeinated fluids to drink.

•Apply a dry, sterile bandage, place cotton between any involved fingers or toes (to prevent rubbing), and take the person to a medical facility as soon as possible.

•Never rewarm an affected area if there is any chance it may freeze again. This thaw-refreeze cycle is very harmful and leads to disastrous results.

•Also, avoid a gradual thaw either in the field or in the transport vehicle. The most effective method is to rewarm the area quickly. Therefore, keep the injured part away from sources of heat until you arrive at a treatment facility where proper rewarming can take place.

•Do not rub the frozen area with snow (or anything else). The friction created by this technique will only cause further tissue damage.

•Above all, keep in mind that the final amount of tissue destruction is proportional to the time it remains frozen, not to the absolute temperature to which it was exposed. Therefore, rapid transport to a hospital is very important.

Frost Nip-

First degree stage of frostbite-

This is called frost nip and this only affects the surface skin, which is frozen. On onset there is itching and pain, and then the skin develops white, red, and yellow patches and becomes numb. The area affected by frost nip usually does not become permanently damaged as only the skin's top layers are affected. Long-term sensitivity to both heat and cold can sometimes happen after suffering from frost nip.


If warm water is unavailable, place the affected body part against another body part that is warm. For instance, if the cheek is frost nipped, place a warm hand against it; if a finger is frost nipped, put it in a warm armpit.

If you try the heat-application method and the part doesn't warm within a few minutes, assume a more severe degree of frostbite and treat accordingly.

If warm water is available (104-108°F) strip the affected body part of all clothing and covering. Place the affected body part in the warm water until it is fully rewarmed - that is, all discoloration is gone, and the tissue is soft and pliable.

Seek medical assistance asap.

Stay Prepared! Stay Alive!


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