Winter Weather Advisory
By Matthew Hite of Amarillo, Texas
As the days get shorter and the temperature gets colder and colder I think it is important to remind everyone of a few quick facts that may save your life…. Ok a little dramatic for most but at least make your existence been and more enjoyable throughout the Holiday seasons and the cold weather that is coming.
Ok let’s put you to a test and see how you do! Before you read on please click and take this quiz
Do you know why you shiver when you are cold? When your body temperature drops a few degrees below its normal temperature (~98.6 F) your blood vessels constrict decreasing your blood flow to reduce heat loss from your skin’s surface. Shivering is your body’s defense and it actually generates beat by increasing the body’s metabolic rate.
To avoid cold emergencies be sure to wear enough clothing to stay warm and dry, dress in layers and don’t forget your hat and gloves .
Always wear appropriate clothing and dress in layers. Keep clothing dry, when possible. Did you know you can lose up to 40% of your body heat through your head? WEAR a HAT! Wear a facemask, scarf or even a bandana to help hold in heat and to help protect your lungs. Be aware of icy and slippery conditions. If you are going to be out in the cold for a long duration of time…. bring a buddy if and when possible. Be sure to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated.
Take a bite out of winter
Avoid prolonged exposure to the cold elements (wind, sleet, rain and snow) when at all possible. Be prepared for an events that could happen to you. Do you have a blanket and extra sweater or two in your car, do you have an ice scraper? Even if your car is normally in a garage many times these few item can save your life if you have car troubles.
Don’t let winter bite you back
If your loosing feeling in your fingers, toes or ears (extremities you could be on your way to being bitten. I’m referring to frostbite. Initial symptoms of frostbite include stinging coldness tingling or loss of movement to an exposed area. The skin may have a waxy appearance and may have greyish white patches on their skin. You may notice an intense pain when you try to bend or move the extremities and then slowly lose the feeling of pain as that pat of the body begins to go numb. Blisters and blotches may also appear with prolonged exposure. Frostbite can be very serious. Prolonged frostbite can result in amputation or loss of function in that extremities, forever.
Freezing to death
Yes it really can happen. I was not joking at the beginning of this blog. When you hear of someone freezing to death or dying of exposure the killer was probably hypothermia. It occurs when your body loses more heat than it can generate over a period of time (sometimes less time than others based on the weather conditions). You will most likely NOT get hyperthermia by walking from your house to a heated car without a jacket on but if you decide to walk across town without proper clothing you could be in danger.
What does true hypothermia look like. The first symptoms are uncontrolled shivering, and the inability to do complex motor functions, mild confusion and lethargy. As hypothermia progresses the person seems dazed and confused and their speech become impaired. Their behaviors, motions and actions become irrational, worse than a drunken state even.
If you come across someone that is undergoing hypothermia please calmly follow these steps to help them out. gently help move the victim into a warmer area away from wind and wetness if possible. Call 911 or have someone around you call. If they are not coherent maintain airway and circulation and perform CPR if needed (and if you know how) remove any wet or frozen clothing and cover the victim with a dry, warm blanket, remember their body may not be producing much internal heat if any at all. If the victim is awake and can do so try having them drink something warm.
Other helpful links/information
Cold Environments http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/phys_agents/cold_health.html
Outdoor guide to cold exposure http://www.princeton.edu/~oa/safety/hypocold.shtml
Cold Weather Camping http://www.usscouts.org/safety/safe-cold.asp
National Weather Service http://www.nws.noaa.gov/windchill
- OSHA http://www.osha.gov/publications/coldcard/coldcard.html