Brrr: How to spot hypothermia, frostbite

Oregon

Winter weather across the region also means frigid temps

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — For those adventuring in the snow, it’s important to limit the chances of frostbite and hypothermia.

To avoid frostbite, be sure to protect the ears, face, hands and feet in extremely cold weather, said the Oregon Health Authority. The OHA suggests for people to wear a hat, a scarf or knit mask, sleeves that are snug at the wrist and mittens, which are warmer than gloves.

Other suggestions include wearing a water-resistant coat and waterproof and insulated boots or shoes.

“When going outside in cold weather, wear several layers of loose clothing, including a hat,” said the Oregon Health Authority on its website. “Layering provides better insulation. Layers can also be removed if you become too hot.”

It’s also important to make sure that the outer layer of your clothing is tightly woven, preferably wind-resistant. This reduces body-heat loss caused by wind.

Wool, silk, or polypropylene inner layers of clothing will hold more body heat than cotton, added the OHA.

“Stay dry. Wet clothing chills the body rapidly. Excess perspiration will increase heat loss, so remove extra layers of clothing whenever you feel too warm,” noted the agency.

The symptoms of frostbite include numbness, redness or pain in any skin area, and skin that feels unusually firm or waxy.

What about hypothermia?

When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced.

“Low body temperature may make you unable to think clearly or move well. You may not know you have hypothermia,” said the OHA. “If your temperature is below 95 degrees, the situation is an emergency — get medical attention immediately.”

If medical care is not available, you should begin warming the person by putting them in a warm room or shelter, removing any wet clothing and trying and warm the center of the body first – chest, neck, head and groin.

You can do this by using an electric blanket or using skin-to-skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing, towels or sheets, advised the agency.

Warm beverages can help increase the body temperature, said OHA, but do not give alcoholic beverages. Health officials say this includes not giving beverages to an unconscious person.

“After body temperature has increased, keep the person dry and wrapped in a warm blanket, including the head and neck. Get medical attention as soon as possible,” the agency added.

Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, exhaustion and confusion.

For the full symptoms of both frostbite and hypothermia, visit OHA’s website.

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