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Cold weather can be dangerous for anyone who spends time outdoors for either work or pleasure. Be mindful of the risks. Excessive exposure to low temperatures, wind or moisture can cause two dangerous conditions: frostbite and hypothermia.
Before venturing outside in winter, be sure to:
Even skin that is protected can be subject to frostbite. It's the most common injury resulting from exposure to severe cold, and it usually occurs on fingers, toes, nose, ears, cheeks and chin. If caught early, it is possible to prevent permanent damage. If not, frostbite can cause tissue death and lead to amputation.
Superficial frostbite affects the skin surface while the underlying tissue remains soft. The skin appears white, waxy or grayish-yellow and is cold and numb.
If the condition progresses to deep frostbite, all layers of the skin are affected and the outcome likely will be more serious. The skin will become completely numb, blisters may form and eventually the skin tissue dies and turns black.
If you suspect frostbite:
Hypothermia occurs when the body's core temperature drops below 95 degrees. Hypothermia is most associated with exposure to extreme cold, but it can also occur at higher temperatures if a person becomes chilled from being soaked with rain or submerged in water.
Severe shivering, one of the first signs of hypothermia, is beneficial in keeping the body warm. But as hypothermia progresses, shivering gives way to drowsiness or exhaustion, confusion, shallow breathing, irregular heartbeat, slurred speech, loss of coordination and, eventually, unconsciousness and death.
Paradoxical undressing is an extremely rare symptom of hypothermia. The victim undresses instead of bundling up. Researchers believe that in the final throes of hypothermia, victims may feel like they are overheating due to a rush of warm blood to the extremities.
If you encounter someone suffering from hypothermia:
These steps are not a substitute for proper medical care. Be sure to seek medical attention for frostbite and hypothermia as soon as possible.
The free NSC Emergency Medical Response app can keep these steps and many more first aid treatments right on your phone. The need to give first aid can be daunting, and this app gives you the information you need to help save someone from injury or death.
Winter is fun. So go make those snow angels and tackle that double black diamond. Just make sure to limit your exposure and bundle up.
If you're considering taking the Polar Plunge, make sure to consult a doctor first to determine if you have any underlying health problems. The enormous shock of these types of activities puts a strain on the heart, doctors say. Keep in mind:
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