Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cold Weather Health

December is a festive time of year but it is also the start of the coldest weather. Whether you are accustomed to the cold or not you should always be aware of prolonged exposure. Serious health conditions can occur such as frostbite and hypothermia. These two conditions can lead to loss of limbs and or death.


Frostbite which is caused by freezing temperatures, injures the body. There is a higher risk with people that have reduced blood circulation and those who dress improperly for extremely cold temperatures. It most often affects the extremities such as the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes. Frostbite warning signs are the loss of feeling such as numbness, pain and a waxy feeling to the skin. Also, frostbite can change the color of the skin to gray, white or yellow. Seek medical attention immediately if you have these symptoms. Frostbite can permanently damage the body and severe cases can lead to amputation.

What to Do

Do not walk on frostbitten feet or toes when possible and get into a warm room immediately. Immerse the affected area in warm water comfortable to the touch, not too hot. You can even use body heat for the affected area, but do not massage this area. This can cause more damage. These numb areas can be easily burned so do not use a heating pad, heat lamp, a stove, fireplace, or radiator for warming.


Hypothermia is when your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. People who are most susceptible to hypothermia are people who remain outdoors for long periods in extremely cold temperatures. Also, the elderly and infants in cold bedrooms are at risk. Hypothermia can also occur with cool temperatures (above 40°F). Some of these cool temperature types are typically associated with moisture such as sweat, rain or submersion in cold water. Recognizing the symptoms of hypothermia can prevent a serious medical condition or even save your life. Some early warning signs are severe shivering, exhaustion, dizziness, slurred speech and confusion. If you are experiencing these symptoms seek medical attention immediately.

What to Do

To confirm the condition of hypothermia the body temperature of the victim will drop below 95°F, which is considered an emergency, seek medical attention immediately for this individual. If medical care is not yet available these are steps that can help reverse this condition. Move the victim into a warm location and remove any wet clothing. Start by warming the center of the body first. The protocol is to start with the chest, neck, head, and groin. Ways of warming the body externally are with warm loose dry layers of blankets, clothing, towels and sheets or with skin-to-skin contact. Internally you can increase the body temperature by administering warm beverages, but do not give alcoholic beverages. In addition, do not try to give beverages to an unconscious person. As the body normalizes, keep the person dry and wrapped in a warm blanket, which includes the head and neck region. In severe cases the victim may become unconscious and may not appear to have a pulse or to be breathing, this victim may even appear dead. In these severe cases, while the victim is being warmed CPR should be performed. CPR should continue until the victim responds or medical personnel arrive. Even though a hypothermia victim appears dead, you should always follow these steps.

To ensure additional safety, it is always a good practice to have your Med File Now® (MedFN®) ID card with you at all times. If you have a loved one that may become a victim of hypothermia, you should advise them to establish a Med File Now® (MedFN®) account. Simply tell them to go to
www.medfn.com to take the tour and join. This valuable service provides your loved ones the security that you would want them to have.