Brrrrr... Dealing with injuries and illnesses caused by the cold
COLD IINJURIES AND ILLNESS. We have reached that part of the year that most of us really don’t like and that’s winter! Whether it be driving rain and freezing winds while stood on the playground on the school run, or shovelling snow off the path, winter can really get you down mentally and physically. This month we are going to take a quick look at cold injuries/illness and how to recognise them in ourselves and others and what we can do to help somebody recover and possibly even save a life.
So what is a cold injury? Well a cold injury occurs when the body drops below its normal temperature range of 36.5 – 37.5 degrees C. There are 3 main cold injuries:
FROSTNIP: This is the early stages of frost bite. Exposed skin areas such as lips and fingertips start to turn red/blue and will gradually turn black. This is due to ice crystals forming in the blood cells which eventually burst and die, causing the sark colouring.
FROSTBITE: This is occurs after frostnip has been allowed to take hold. More and more blood cells freeze and burst until exposed areas such as fingers, ear lobes lips etc become completely frozen, black and essentially dead!
This is where a persons body temperature has dropped below 35 degrees C. At this temperature or lower the body starts to shut down until eventually the heart will stop leading to death.
A body temperature of below 26 degrees C is usually fatal. People with hypothermia will be cold to the touch, shivering at first which will lead to muscle stiffness, lethargy confusion and disorientation, lowered levels of response leading to unconsciousness and eventually death.
What can we do for people with these injuries/illnesses? Well, put simply we need to warm them up SLOWLY! If you warm somebody with hypothermia up too quickly you could cause a cardiac arrest and kill them. In the case of hypothermia and frostbite these are medical emergencies and you must call 999 as soon as possible. Remove any wet clothing and cover in warm blankets and give them warm drinks and high energy foods like chocolate, as this will give the body plenty of energy to produce heat. People with frostnip usually recover on their own without any major problems. However if concerned they should seek medical advice.
Avoiding these injuries is down to common sense and good preparation. Wrap up warm and don’t miss meals. We need extra calories in the winter to help us keep our bodies warm. If children are outside make sure they stay wrapped up and bring them in for warm drinks and a snack on a regular basis.
Older people and animals are highly prone to cold injuries so keep an eye on any elderly neighbours and if you are concerned about them you can always call 111 for advice, or invite them for a warm drink and a biscuit. Also don’t leave pets in the rain cold or snow as they can get hypothermia and die as well.