Center of Excellence – Homeland Security Emergency Management

December 16, 2013

Prevent Cold Injury, Frostbite, and Hypothermia

Cold injuries can occur whenever air temperature is below freezing (32 degrees F). Freezing of the skin surface is called ‘frost nip‘. When freezing extends deeper though the skin and flesh, the injury is called ‘frostbite‘.

Hypothermia is a life threatening condition in which deep-body temperature falls below 95°F (normally 98.6°F).

While you can get hypothermia even during relatively warm conditions, when temperatures plummet the danger and risk of getting frost nip, frostbite, or hypothermia becomes even greater – because it can come on much faster.

Tips to prevent hypothermia…

Body temperature falls when the body cannot produce heat as fast as it is being lost.

 

Heat Loss Through The Head

At rest, the body core loses about 7 percent of its heat through the head.

When exercising, the head will lose more body heat which can ramp up to 50 percent heat loss, but the heat loss percentage will then diminish when you start to sweat and when your muscles start demanding more blood flow.

When in hypothermia however (shivering), core body heat loss through the head increases to as much as 55 percent and remains at this high level.

 

Cold Injury and Hypothermia Prevention Tips

Stay hydrated. A dehydrated body will slow blood circulation.

Avoid smoking – nicotine will constrict the blood vessels.

Avoid alcohol and caffeine which can lead to dehydration.

If cold, it is better to be active than to huddle up.

Heat production is increased by physical activity, but avoid sweating.

Don’t skip meals which will lead to slower metabolism and blood flow.

Wear the right clothes the right way.

Too much clothing can cause overheating and dehydration.

Avoid tight fitting clothing.

Clothes should be worn loose and in layers.

Clothing should be made of material that water vapor can pass through.

Avoid 100 percent cotton. Use synthetic fabrics for wicking moisture.

Use water and wind resistant outerwear. Nylon, Gore-Tex.

Socks should be changed frequently.

Keep hands well protected. Mittens are better than gloves.

Cover your head. Wear a hat!

Use insulated hats and gloves made with materials such as Thinsulate™

Stay Dry. Stay Dry. Stay Dry.

A very lean person is more susceptible to cold (fat is an insulator).

Self Check by pinching your fingernail to watch how fast the blood returns to your finger.

Avoid being alone in the very cold. Buddy system.

Keep an eye on your children who don’t know about the dangers of cold.

Keep a survival kit nearby which should include a means to make fire.

Know how to build a fire and how to procure tinder and kindling in wet conditions.

Understand ‘wind chill’ and avoid windy places.

 

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