By Jennifer Fuller
For the Courier 

Keeping an Eye Out for Hypothermia, Frostbite

 


The Glasgow Police Department asks everyone to be mindful of our winter weather. Hypothermia and frostbite are serious risks for anyone spending time outside this season.

There are a number of risk factors to developing hypothermia. Those at the greatest danger are those whose cold weather judgment is impaired in some way. Whether this is an elderly person, a baby who cannot accurately regulate their temperature, those on medications that alter their ability to sense temperature, those who suffer nerve damage or those who drink heavily or use recreational drugs.

While alcohol and certain recreational and prescription drugs can make you feel warm, this feeling is actually the blood vessels expanding close to the surface of your skin. When exposed to the frigid elements, heavy alcohol and drug use can cause these vessels to remain widened, greatly speeding up the heat loss. Besides hypothermia, there is also the threat of slipping or falling in the snow and ice after drinking and hurting yourself, or making risky choices that will put you further into danger.


Someone with moderate to severe hypothermia will stop shivering. They will lose coordination and become increasingly confused and disoriented. Standing and walking will be a problem, pupils will dilate and pulse and breathing will slow. If left without help, death is a serious possibility.

Frostbite, as defined by the US Department of Labor, is “an injury to the body that is caused by freezing of the skin and underlying tissues.” The lower the temperature, the more quickly frostbite occurs. You will notice reddened skin become gray/white in patches. There will be numbness to the area and it will feel firm or hard and in some cases develop blisters.

In this arctic weather, plan ahead to avoid cold-related dangers. If you are recreating, traveling or socializing, know how you are getting home, stick with your friends and dress in warm layers. This winter, don’t take unnecessary risks. For more information regarding hypothermia and frost bite, please visit the cold stress guide provided by the United States Department of Labor at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/emergencypreparedness/guides/cold.html

 

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