Watch for winter dangers

January 16, 2009

Warnings signs of hypothermia


o shivering, exhaustion

o confusion, fumbling hands

o memory loss, slurred speech

o drowsiness


o bright red, cold skin

o very low energy

What to do:

If you notice any of these signs, take the person's temperature. If it is below 95 degrees, the situation is an emergency -- get medical attention immediately.


If medical care is not available, begin warming the person as follows:

o Get the victim into a warm room or shelter.

o If the victim has on any wet clothing, remove it.

o Warm the center of the body first -- chest, neck, head, and groin -- using an electric blanket, if available. Or use skin-to-skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing, towels, or sheets.

o Warm beverages can help increase the body temperature, but do not give alcoholic beverages. Do not try to give beverages to an unconscious person.

o After body temperature has increased, keep the person dry and wrapped in a warm blanket, including the head and neck.

o Get medical attention as soon as possible.

Warning signs of frostbite

At the first signs of redness or pain in any skin area, get out of the cold or protect any exposed skin. Frostbite may be beginning. Any of the following signs may indicate frostbite:

o A white or grayish-yellow skin area.

o Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy.

o Numbness.

A victim is often unaware of frostbite until someone else points it out because the frozen tissues are numb.

What to do

If you detect symptoms of frostbite, seek medical care. Because frostbite and hypothermia both result from exposure, first determine whether the victim also shows signs of hypothermia, as described previously. Hypothermia is a more serious medical condition and requires emergency medical assistance.

If there is frostbite but no sign of hypothermia and immediate medical care is not available, proceed as follows:

o Get into a warm room as soon as possible.

o Unless absolutely necessary, do not walk on frostbitten feet or toes. This increases the damage.

o Immerse the affected area in warm -- not hot -- water (the temperature should be comfortable to the touch for unaffected parts of the body).

o Or, warm the affected area using body heat. For example, the heat of an armpit can be used to warm frostbitten fingers.

o Do not rub the frostbitten area with snow or massage it at all. This can cause more damage.

o Don't use a heating pad, heat lamp or the heat of a stove, fireplace or radiator for warming. Affected areas are numb and can be easily burned.

For more information, visit

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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