Cold Stress

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Cold stress or hypothermia can occur any time of the year.  Most cases of cold stress develop in air temperatures between 30° and 50° F.  Injuries range from frostbite to brain damage and death.

If you are in the cold, dress in layers.  Choose fabrics such as cotton and wool, which insulate but also allow sweat to evaporate.  Wool will keep you warm even when it is wet.  Pay particular attention to your head, face, hands, and feet.  These areas are most easily frostbitten.  Keep dry.  Wetness increases the chance of hypothermia.  Always have extra clothing available if there is a chance you will get wet.

Take breaks to warm up and drink warm liquids and soup. Avoid caffeine and alcohol.

Eating properly will increase your tolerance for the cold.

Don’t work alone.  The effects of cold may not be apparent to the victim.  The first symptoms of hypothermia are uncontrollable shivering.  The heartbeat slows and pulse weakens, severe shaking or stiff muscles may become evident.  The victim may have slurred speech, memory lapses, and drowsiness.  Cool skin, slow and irregular breathing and exhaustion occur as the body temperature drops lower.  This is a serious condition and requires immediate medical attention.

Frostbite can occur without hypothermia.  You may feel a tingling in the affected part, followed by numbness and changes in skin color.  Pain subsides as the condition worsens.  Blisters may form.  Get medical attention as soon as possible.


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