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Beware these life-threatening cold weather ailments

Digital writers

Monday, December 14, 2015, 1:14 PM - Exposure to cold temperatures can be dangerous and even life threatening. 

Extremities of the body, such as your nose, ears, fingers and toes tend to lose heat most quickly. Skin that is exposed can freeze and result in frostnip or frostbite. 

In extreme cold conditions or after prolonged exposure your body's temperature can drop, resulting in hypothermia.

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The Symptoms
Feeling cold over an extended period of time can cause the body's temperature to fall below the normal 37ºC. This can result in shivering, bewilderment, and a loss of muscle control. In severe cases this can progress to a life-threatening situation where the shivering ceases, the person falls unconscious and cardiac arrest may occur.

How to Treat the Condition: 

  • Seek medical assistance immediately. 
  • Help the person lay down, being as gentle as possible (especially if they have lost consciousness). 
  • Bring the person inside. 
  • Carefully remove any wet clothing. 
  • Warm the person slowly, using any available means of heat.


The Symptoms
Frostnip is a weaker form of frostbite where only the skin freezes. The skin takes on a yellowish or white colour, but remains soft to the touch. Frostnip is accompanied by a painful tingling or burning feeling.

How to Treat the Condition:

  • Do NOT massage or rub the affected area. 
  • Slowly warm up the area using body heat (a warm hand) or some warm water. Do not use any form of direct heat which can burn the skin. 
  • After the area has been warmed do not re-expose it to the cold.


The Symptoms
Frostbite is a more serious condition, which causes both the skin and underlying tissue (fat, muscle, bone) to freeze. The skin will become white and waxy in appearance and feel hard to the touch. There is no feeling in the affected area - it is numb.

How to Treat the Condition: 

  • Frostbite can be serious and end up in amputation. Seek medical attention. 
  • Do NOT rub or massage the affected area. 
  • Wait to warm the area until you are certain that it will stay warm. 
  • Slowly warm the area - use body heat or warm water (40 to 42ºC) avoid direct heat because it can burn the skin.
Cold Weather Safety Tips
  • Check the weather forecast before venturing out in the cold. This way you will know if a wind chill. 
  • Always plan ahead. Groups, organizations, and employers should have a plan in place in order to ensure that safety concerns are handled when the wind chill is high. For example, people who work outdoors in construction could have scheduled "warm up" breaks. 
  • Dress for the weather. Make sure that you wear several layers of clothing and leave as little skin exposed as possible. Especially important to keep covered are the extremities of your body and your head (as most of your body heat is lost through the head.) Remember that clothing that is wet or poorly lined hinders your ability to deal with the cold. 
  • Find shelter. Try to get out of the wind. If the wind chill is particularly high try to spend as little time as possible outdoors. 
  • Try to stay dry. If your clothing is wet you will find that your body becomes chilled more rapidly. 
  • Keep moving. Activities such as walking or running will help you to stay warm by generating body heat. 
  • Be aware of your own limits. Some people possess a lower tolerance level to the cold. Resistance to the cold can be reduced even further through the use of alcohol, tobacco and certain kinds of medication. In addition, your body type can have an impact on how well you handle the cold. Generally speaking, people with a tall, slender build become colder much quicker those that are shorter and heavier.

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