Hypothermia and frostbite treatment
Knowledge about hypothermia and frostbite treatment is important for all travelers in cold winter weather.
Hypothermia happens when the body rapidly loses heat caused by fatigue, cold, wetness or exposure to wind. Early warning symptoms include intense shivering, fumbling hands and poor coordination. Shivering is the body's attempt to generate heat.
The first thing to do is to prevent further heat loss:
Get out of the wind, snow or rain. Seek and build shelter.
If wet, get into dry clothes and a warm dry sleeping bag.
Create body heat. Drink something warm like hot water or soup – no caffeine like in coffee or tea and never alcohol. Build a fire.
Frostbite is the actual freezing of the blood vessels and surrounding tissue of body parts. The most common areas that frostbite occurs are any exposed skin such as the ears, nose and cheeks. The second most common locations for frostbite include the fingers, toes, feet and hands.
Signs of frostbite:
A stinging pain that turns into insensitivity. However, you may not feel the pain if you face stressful weather conditions.
Skin becomes cold and you can see white spots.
A person with frostbite needs medical attention. Frostbite can cause permanent injuries. If it's impossible getting to a medical facility within a reasonable time (2-3 hours), and you have a safe area where the patient is not at risk of refreezing then you may decide to start treating the frostbite.
Submerge body parts in tepid water between the temperatures of 104-108 °F (40 - 42 °C). This water will cool quickly, so you will have to change it often. Do not submerge a body part in water warmer than that due to the risk of burns. Thawing too quickly may also cause increased pain and even shock.
When drying the frostbitten areas, pat them. DO NOT RUB, because rubbing will cause more damage. You may see more blisters appear as the area is thawing. DO NOT POP. By leaving them intact, you will decrease the chance for infection. Apply a dry loose sterile dressing to the affected areas. Make sure the dressing is not tight.
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