Showing posts with label frostbite. Show all posts
Showing posts with label frostbite. Show all posts

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Family Survival of Cold Weather Injuries

By: Sebastian Berry

DISCLAIMER: Instructions and information provided here is not a substitute for professional medical care and treatment. If you are having an emergency, call 911 or your local emergency number for assistance.

I do not claim credit to any images used unless specifically indicated. 

Stacey Lynn, in her previous post, wrote about some general winter safety/survival tips. In this most recent installment of knowledge building, let's talk cold weather injuries (CWI). These kinds of injuries go beyond what the general public would think of. Obviously we have to remember hypothermia and frostbite. We also have to keep in mind those injuries that are related to the cold weather and not just simply caused by the cold.

Thinking outside the box:

  • Injuries from heaters/stoves
  • Cold thermal burns
  • Carbon Monoxide poisoning
  • Injuries/accidents due to reduced physical/mental capacity from cold stress
  • Dehydration
  • Sunburn
  • Snow Blindness
Believe it or not the Army actually knows some stuff about the various types of weather related injuries. Cold weather injuries slide show. The link with the slide show comes from the Army and is a general overview of various CWI and what to do to survive.

Let's start with the obvious-hypothermia. Hypothermia is defined as a core temperature of less than 95F/35C. The gold standard core temperature measurement is a rectal temperature. Believe me, when you tell someone that the first thing to check is a rectal temp, they will do whatever necessary to avoid that. Everyone knew what the silver bullet was, and it wasn't that cold can of Coors Light from the commercials

The premier treatment for hypothermia is rewarming and drying. This is accomplished by almost any method imaginable-from exercise to hot food to warm clothing and shelter. Rewarming must be done slowly however so as not to shock the body with too rapid a change. Getting and staying dry are just as important as getting and staying warm. If you get out of wet clothing to get warm and then get in wet clothing again, you are setting yourself up for failure and becoming a CWI.

If you talk to older folks about what they did to treat hypothermia, many might tell you that you needed to have a shot of brandy or rum. You may feel warmer for a moment from the flush that the alcohol might give but it actually does nothing to help you get warmer. While rewarming, avoidance of alcohol and nicotine are recommended.

Dehydration may seem  easy to prevent but in actuality we as humans suck at realizing we are getting dehydrated. Dehydration is much more sneaky in colder environments. There are many things that contribute to dehydration. Physical activity is probably the easiest to control. As we exert ourselves we use our hydration stores and we also sweat (which can also contribute to hypothermia). By the time you feel thirsty, you are already behind the curve when it comes to keeping hydrated.

Signs and symptoms of dehydration:
  • Increasingly dark color of urine. Clear-->Yellow-->Orange-->Brown
  • Thirst
  • Excessive sweating
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Cramps
In the way back, we used to be given salt tablets to mix in a canteen of water. A simple Google search shows that you can still find re-hydration salts. That has long since gone away in favor of sports drinks or other electrolyte replacements. Of course, the easiest treatment for dehydration is oral re-hydration if it can be tolerated. If not, then IV hydration needs to be accomplished and that is best left to the professionals.

Cold stress is exactly that-the increased stress put on your body by the cold. We hear all the time about folks that keel over and die of heart attacks while shoveling snow. It's more common than you think. So what do we do about it? You have to know your limitations and understand that being in the cold can limit your physical capability significantly.

Keep in mind that the type and amount of clothing you wear is important as well. I'll keep it simple- cotton kills! Yes, cotton is comfy and cozy when it is dry. As you begin to sweat though cotton will hold on to all that moisture making you a prime candidate for hypothermia via conduction and over exertion.

Something that people forget about in the cold are burns. In a previous post I wrote about burns here, any type of "hot" burn can also be caused by the cold. It doesn't matter the type of burn the initial treatment is the same-remove the source of the burn. You may not want to believe it but wearing sunscreen is just as important in the winter as it is in the summer. Some of the worst sunburns I have ever had were on my face after a day on the slopes.

One specific thing to the cold weather is snow blindness. Imagine a sunburn on your eye. It is incredibly irritating and can be very painful. It happens as UV rays are reflected off of snow and into the eye. The simple way to avoid snow blindness is to protect your eyes. I prefer polarized sunglasses and wear them regularly in almost every condition. This is the reason most skiers wear full goggles. Snow blindness is usually temporary and treated with prescription eye ointments.

Here's a breakdown of how to avoid CWI:

  • Stay warm and dry
  • Layer clothing
  • Stay hydrated
  • Avoid over exertion
  • Protect your skin and eyes
Here's the breakdown of how to treat CWI:
  • Get warm and dry
  • Re-hydrate with oral fluids if possible
  • Rest

I've only covered a few things here related to cold weather injuries and how to survive in the cold. What things do you have or do to survive the cold? Tell us in the comments.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Vehicle Tips For Winter Survival Situation

During the winter, there are a lot more opportunities for things to go wrong in a survival situation. In fact, being stranded in certain geographical areas could cause great health problems and even death. That’s why it is so important that you be prepared with a proper vehicle survival kit.

The kit should be kept in your car throughout the winter, especially if you often travel in sparsely populated areas. It could potentially become a life saving kit, for you as well as your passengers.

General Vehicle Survival Tips
When it comes to survival, we cannot stress “preparation” enough! This is definitely the case when it comes to your vehicle. Prep it and make sure it stays prepped at all times. For instance, make sure your gas tank has an ample supply of gas, given the terrain you will be traveling. Also, we sure to check your antifreeze before each trip.

It’s a lot easier for someone to come to your aid if you’re easy to find. Tell a trusted friend or family member where you’re headed, what route you plan to take and make sure you contact them once you arrive at your destination. Let them know that if they don’t hear from you, that they should first contact the area to which you are going. If you did not reach your destination, they will know which way to go and greatly increase your chances of survival.

If your vehicle becomes stuck, make sure to leave a flag tied to an antenna and keep those dome lights turned on. Rescue personnel can see the smallest glow in the distance, especially at night and in the snow. If you’re worried about draining your battery, keep an ear out for approaching emergency vehicles and only use your emergency flashers at that time.

If Forced To Stay In Your Vehicle
If you do become stuck, it’s always questionable as to whether you should get out and go for help or just stay in the car. We suggest the latter in most cases. Walking in a winter storm can be incredibly dangerous and it’s easy for exhaustion to set it in cold weather. Your vehicle makes a good shelter, and you won’t suddenly find yourself lost.

However, if you have been in your car for a longer period of time, there are other things to keep in mind. For instance, if the snow is falling hard and fast, your exhaust can become blocked or plugged. Continuing to run the vehicle in this situation will cause carbon monoxide to build up inside the car, which can be deadly in a very short period of time.

If this is the case, only run the car for ten minutes on every hour. Make sure that the exhaust is free of snow, if possible and keep your windows cracked while the engine is running, just in case. It’s better to be cold than to risk the outcome of staying warm.

Avoid Overexertion
If you become trapped in a snow storm, it’s very tempting to try to free yourself, in any way that you can. However, pushing the vehicle or attempting to shovel snow to free the vehicle takes a lot more effort in extreme weather conditions than it normally would.

Don’t attempt this, as you could sustain an injurty that would make things worse, or you might possibly have a heart attack. Additionally, you will become hot and sweaty. While warming up always sounds like a good idea in the extreme cold, the aftermath could cause frostbite or death. Wet garments that have become sweat-soaked will quickly lose their insulative properties and can cause hypothermia.

Put Together A Survival Kit For Your Vehicle
We mentioned a survival kit earlier, and now we’re going to tell you a few items you should make sure to include. While you may not use every single one of them, it’s always better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it!

Here’s what you have in a kit in your vehicle during the winter:

  • A shovel, for keeping the exhaust free of snow buildup or to move a light amount of snow from around your tires.
  • A scraper for your windshield, or a small hand broom. It’s important that rescuers and emergency personnel be able to see inside the vehicle.
  • A flashlight with an extra supply of batteries. In the event that your car battery dies, a flashlight can be used to alert rescuers to your location.
  • A battery powered emergency radio. Not only will it give you something to listen to in order to pass the time, it can keep you up to date on any special weather conditions and whether they will let up or worsen.
  • An ample supply of water. Always keep at least enough for 24 hours, but if you have room, keep more.
  • Snack foods. Make sure you have snacks that provide ample energy and are of the utmost nutritional value. In any emergency situation, nutrition is important, but even more so during cold weather.
  • Matches, candles or other small items such as this. This will make sure you don’t use up all the battery power of the car’s battery or your flashlight batteries.
  • Extra pairs of socks, mittens and hats. Remember that in cold weather, dressing in layers is always the best route. It’s one of the main cold-weather survival skills taught in the military.
  • First aid kit.
  • Any medications that you simply cannot do without. This would include medications for blood pressure, diabetes and breathing disorders such as asthma, which can be made worse by cold weather.
  • Blankets or a sleeping bag. This adds another layer of insulation for protection against the elements and can sometimes be used by more than one person. Two people inside one sleeping bag, especially children, can create more heat than just one alone.
  • Tow chain or a rope that is big enough to tow  a vehicle. If you happen to be found by someone other than emergency workers who are well equipped, having this one item could potentially be a life saver.
  • Sand, cat litter or road salt.
  • Booster cables.
  • Emergency flares. These can be used to alert someone to your location who may not be very close to you.

If possible, store the kit inside the vehicle instead of the trunk. In extremely low temperatures, the trunk lid can become jammed or even freeze shut. A kit you can’t get to is like having no kit at all, so think ahead.