Snow can be beautiful, and sure fun to play in, but many local schools have already cancelled tomorrow in anticipation of the below freezing weather. If you and your children have to venture outside, review these tips so that you can prevent cold stress conditions.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up your body’s stored energy. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature.”
Prevent hypothermia by:
- Wearing multiple layers of loose clothing; avoid tight clothing which can restrict circulation.
- Change clothing if they become wet or saturated with perspiration.
- Don’t venture out alone; watch out for warning signs that may not be recognized by the person with symptoms such as shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness.
- Watch infants closely for bright red and cold skin and signs of low energy.
- Start CPR any anyone found hypothermic with no pulse.
The CDC recommends taking the person’s temperature if you notice any signs of hypothermia. If it is below 95° F, they suggest you seek immediate medical attention. While waiting for emergency responders begin warming the person by getting them indoors and remove any wet clothing. Warm the head and center of the body first with hats, blankets and dry clothing. If the victim is alert enough to drink, warm beverages can be offered (but avoid alcohol).
Frostbite is another concern and occurs when exposed skin and tissue begin to freeze. It is most often found on fingers, toes, ears, cheeks, nose and chins. It is important to keep these areas warm and covered, as frostbite can begin in 15 minutes or less in some conditions. (See the Wind Chill Chart below from the National Weather Service.)
Monitor these high risk areas for signs of frostbite such as a pale, blistered or gray appearance. Tell children to alert you if they feel their skin burning, or if they begin to have any numbness.
How to Treat Frostbite:
- If any of these symptoms occur, get indoors immediately.
- Remove any rings or constrictive jewelry, and soak the area in warm water.
- Warm area slowly, avoid hot water and heat lamps, as more damage can occur.
- If the area is not able to be submerged, apply a warm washcloth compress, but never rub the frozen area.
- Continue warming methods for the rest of the body and watch for restored color and feeling.
- If after a few minutes feeling is not restored, seek medical attention.
When travelling by car, you still need to be prepared. Road crews and first responders are working around the clock, and if your vehicle gets stuck, you may be waiting for some time. For each person in your vehicle pack full snow gear, blankets or sleeping bags, a warm change of clothes, food and water, an emergency vehicle kit, first aid kit (include chemical hot packs) and flashlights.
Remember, don’t leave the house without a hat, gloves and scarf, covering all exposed skin.
Stay warm and be safe.
—Erica Surman, RN, BSN, Pediatric Trauma Program Manager, Beaumont Health System