(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one in a series of winter danger articles.)
Safety experts know that you don’t have to be in the sub-zero weather that has afflicted this region recently to be in danger, though it certainly helps.
It’s the conditions that are faced that raise dangers, according to information from Emergency Risk Manager Amy Miller.
Anyone who is going to be out in winter weather, even if it seems less threatening than what we have faced recently, needs to be aware of just how dangerous cold can be.
According to Miller’s information:
• Wind chill is not the actual temperature, but rather how wind and cold actually feel on exposed skin. As the wind increases, heat is carried away from the body at an accelerated rate, driving down the body temperature. Animals are also affected by wind chill, however, cars, plants and other objects are not.
• Frostbite is damage to body tissue caused by extreme cold. A wind chill of -20°
Fahrenheit with light winds will cause frostbite in just 30 minutes. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately! If you must wait for help, slowly re-warm affected areas. However, if the person is also showing signs of hypothermia, warm the body core before the extremities.
• Hypothermia is a condition brought on when the body temperature drops to less than 95°F, and it can kill. For those who survive, there is likely to be lasting damage to the kidneys, liver and pancreas. Warning signs include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. Take the person’s temperature. If below 95°F, seek medical care immediately.
• If medical care is not available, warm the person slowly, starting with the body core.
Warming the arms and legs first drives cold blood toward the heart and can lead to heart failure.
If necessary, use your body heat to help. Get the person into dry clothing and wrap them in a warm blanket, covering the head and neck.
Do not give the person alcohol, drugs, coffee, or any hot beverage or food. Warm broth is an excellent choice.