What are the health effects of exposure to cold? Cooling of body parts may result in various cold injuries - with hypothermia being the most serious. Nonfreezing cold injuries include chilblain, immersion foot, and trench foot. Freezing injuries include frostnip and frostbite. Today we’ll discuss the effects of cold exposure and how to identify the signs and symptoms of cold exposure injuries.
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The Dangers Of Cold Exposure
Keith Thomas 00:00
Welcome to typical prepping, the podcast for those who would like to start their own disaster preparedness plan, or those who have gotten started, but are not quite sure where or how to take the next steps. Each week I'll present a disaster preparedness topic with actionable tips and strategies that you can implement to start or grow your personal disaster preparations. Thanks for stopping by to listen today!
Keith Thomas 01:03
Hi, I'm Keith and welcome to typical prepping. On this episode, we'll be talking about the dangers of cold exposure and what you can do to prevent becoming a victim of cold exposure.
Keith Thomas 01:15
What are the health effects of exposure to cold? Cooling of body parts may result in various cold injuries, with hypothermia being the most serious. Non-freezing cold injuries include chilblain, immersion foot, and trench foot. Freezing injuries include frostnip and frostbite. Today, we'll discuss the effects of cold exposure and how to identify the signs and symptoms of cold exposure injuries.
Keith Thomas 01:46
Cold weather can be dangerous for anyone who enjoys outdoor activities. According to the CDC, approximately 1300 people die each year due to exposure to excessive natural cold, hypothermia, or both.
Keith Thomas 02:03
Cold exposure can cause injury to individual parts of the body like the feet, hands, ears, and nose, or the body as a whole. Because heat always travels from a warmer place to a cooler place, the body will lose heat to the environment. When the body's core temperature drops below 98 degrees Fahrenheit, this is called hypothermia.
Keith Thomas 02:28
So let's begin by looking at how the body loses heat. The body can lose heat in five ways conduction, convection, evaporation, radiation, and respiration.
Keith Thomas 02:42
Conduction is the transfer of heat from a part of the body to a colder object by direct contact. Heat passes directly from the body to the colder object, such as heat loss from sleeping on the cold ground. Heat is lost in air temperatures lower than 20 degrees Celsius or 68 degrees Fahrenheit, and the body loses about 2% of its heat through air conduction. However, water causes more heat loss from the body than air does. So heat can be lost from the body very quickly when it's placed in cold water.
Keith Thomas 03:23
Convection occurs when heat is transferred to circulating air. A person standing outside in windy winter weather wearing lightweight clothing is losing heat to the environment mostly by convection, the body loses 10 to 15% of its heat through convection.
Keith Thomas 03:42
Evaporation. Evaporation is the conversion of any liquid to a gas and a process that requires energy or heat. Evaporation is the natural mechanism by which sweating cools the body. If your clothing is wet, you will also lose some body heat through evaporation and through respiration when the body temperature is higher than 37 degrees Celsius or 99 degrees Fahrenheit. During intense exercise, the body loses 85% of its heat through sweating.
Keith Thomas 04:18
Radiation is the transfer of heat by radiant energy. Radiant energy is a type of invisible light that transfers heat, similar to heat leaving a woodstove. This normal process of heat moving away from the body usually occurs in air temperatures lower than 20 degrees Celsius or 68 degrees Fahrenheit and the body loses 65% of its heat through radiation.
Keith Thomas 04:44
Respiration causes body heat to be lost as warm air in the lungs is exhaled into the atmosphere and cooler air is inhaled. Heat loss through evaporation and respiration increases in dry windy weather conditions. Wet clothing greatly increases heat loss through conduction and evaporation. Heat loss in cold wet weather increases the risk of hypothermia and cold injury. Heat loss can occur in warm temperatures through conduction. Swimming or sitting in cool or cold water can cause the body to lose heat very quickly and increase the risk of hypothermia.
Keith Thomas 05:26
So now that we know how the body loses heat, we can reduce this heat loss in the following ways.
Keith Thomas 05:32
First, is to increase heat production. One way for the body to increase heat production is to increase the rate of metabolism of its cells. This occurs with shivering often people have a natural urge to move around when they're cold.
Keith Thomas 05:49
Secondly, move to an area where heat loss is decreased. The most obvious way to decrease heat loss is to move out of a cold environment and seek shelter from the wind. This will reduce heat loss from radiation and convection. Just covering the head and neck will minimize radiation heat loss by up to 70%.
Keith Thomas 06:12
Number three, Wear insulated clothing. Layers of clothing that trap air provide good insulation, as do wool, down, and synthetic fabrics that have small pockets of trapped air. Now that we know how the body loses heat, and how we can address this heat loss, let's look at the effects of frostbite and hypothermia.
Keith Thomas 06:36
Frostbite is the most common injury to occur during severe cold. It usually affects the fingers and toes, nose, ears, cheeks, and chin. If called early, permanent damage can be prevented. If not frostbite could lead to amputation. Superficial frostbite affects the skin surface. The skin will appear white, waxy, or grayish-yellow and is cold and numb. Deep frostbite affects all layers of the skin and can include muscle tissue. The affected part will be completely numb, blisters may form and the skin tissue begins to die and turns black.
Keith Thomas 07:22
If you suspect frostbite, get indoors immediately. Seek medical attention. Remove constrictive clothing or jewelry that could impair circulation. Place dry sterile gauze between fingers and toes to absorb moisture and to keep them from sticking together. For superficial frostbite, you may place the affected area in warm water with a temperature of 100 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit until the part is soft again.
Keith Thomas 07:54
Hypothermia occurs when the body's temperature drops below 98 degrees Fahrenheit. When the body's temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit, the signs of hypothermia become very obvious. Severe shivering is usually the first sign of hypothermia. As hypothermia progresses, shivering gives way to drowsiness or exhaustion, confusion, shallow breathing, irregular heartbeat, slurred speech, loss of coordination, and eventually unconsciousness and death. The most bizarre symptoms of hypothermia are called paradoxical undressing. This is when a person with hypothermia begins undressing instead of bundling up. Some researchers believe that in the final throes of hypothermia, the person may feel like he or she is overheated, due to a rush of warm blood into the extremities. Hypothermia can occur quickly within a few hours, or gradually over days and weeks, depending on a person's age, overall health, and environmental conditions.
Keith Thomas 09:07
So what should you do, should you suspect or encounter someone suffering from hypothermia? Move the person inside and remove any wet clothing. Call for medical attention. Wrap the person in blankets or towels. Cover the person's head. Handle the person gently and keep the person laying horizontal. And if necessary, start CPR.
Keith Thomas 09:37
These guidelines are not a substitute for professional medical care. But these guidelines should give you the knowledge to help to protect you, your family, and friends from becoming victims of frostbite or hypothermia by recognizing the symptoms and remember the temperature doesn't have to be below freezing to become a victim of hypothermia.
Keith Thomas 10:01
Well, that's it for this week. Thanks for listening, and join me on next week's episode for another preparedness topic. And until then, stay safe and be prepared!
Keith Thomas 10:12
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