Extreme temperatures during the winter months leave people susceptible to injuries and illness. Taking precautions can help you enjoy the beautiful snow, outdoor sports, and cold weather without problems. However, frostbite and hypothermia can come on unexpectedly and can result in permanent injuries or worse.
Hypothermia and frostbite typically occur after spending time outside for longer than anticipated. At the Park City Fire District, we’ve have a few tips we’d like to share to help you and your family stay safe and healthy this winter.
Frostbite & Hypothermia: Avoiding Risk
Hypothermia occurs when your body temperature drops to abnormally low levels. Babies and seniors are the most vulnerable to the risk of hypothermia. It is a real risk during times of extreme cold. Ensure you, your children and the elderly are properly dressed when the temperature plummets.
Frostbite occurs when the skin freezes. It typically happens when the face or hands are left exposed in extreme cold. If caught early, mild frostbite can be treated, but advanced frostbite is a real danger and can lead to severe medical problems.
Protecting Yourself from Frostbite and Hypothermia
If you plan to spend time out of doors, even for a brief time, protect against frostbite and hypothermia by doing the following:
- Layer your clothing
- Wear a water-repellent layer
- Always wear a hat, scarf, and mittens in extremely low temperatures
- Make sure all body areas are covered, including your face
- Wear wool socks and water-repellent footwear
Drink plenty of warm liquids, and always avoid extended periods of time out in the bitter cold. Know the signs and take immediate action if you see the signs of frostbite.
Symptoms of Frostbite and Hypothermia
Both hypothermia and frostbite require immediate medical attention, but knowing the signs can help you identify a potential problem and avoid a serious medical emergency.
- Hypothermia causes the body to start shutting down, and the symptoms include disorientation, drowsiness, appearing clumsy, forgetful, or incoherent. Uncontrollable shivering is a symptom, but as the condition progresses, the shivering stops as the body tries to conserve energy.
- The skin may appear white or waxy when frostbitten. This symptom appears most often on the extremities, and you can lose sensation in the affected area. As frostbite progresses the skin can start to turn a grey or blue color.
What to Do
If you notice any of the symptoms in yourself or others, don’t panic. Someone with hypothermia is in a fragile state, and the heart may be beating irregularly. Gently move them to a warm area, remove wet clothing, wrap them in a blanket, and call emergency services for help.
If you have frostbite, cover the exposed area but do not try to warm it up too quickly. The affected area may feel itchy or painful, but resist the urge to rub or scratch.
Know the signs, and seek medical help immediately. Both frostbite and hypothermia are dangerous to your health, and at the Park City Fire District, we are here when you need us.