How to Fight Frostbite and Hypothermia

Frostbite and hypothermia are nothing to shrug at. Temperatures can vary and drop dramatically, especially in high altitude catching hikers off guard. Hikers can face sudden snowstorms, freezing rain or even avalanches, as was reported last year, when close to 40 trekkers lost their lives in Nepal’s Annapurna region. A large portion of these hikers and sherpas left stranded in the mountains survived by being treated for frostbite and hypothermia. Early precaution for a winter hike, like checking the forecasts, paying attention to early weather warning systems, wearing adequate clothing, and carrying enough food and water are essential, but natural elements are not always predictable. Below are some ways you can fight and treat frostbite and hypothermia. And don’t forget to help a friend on the trail!

Image: www.pinterest.com/pin/289848925990700324/

Image: www.pinterest.com

Hypothermia 

As opposed to hyperthermia (heat stroke), hypothermia is a result of being exposed to cold temperature, so that your body dips below 95°F. When the body can not longer heat itself, the core temperature drops quickly, using up stored energy and causing abnormal body functions. A low body temperature can affect the brain, movements and thoughts, which makes it worse for the victim, since they may not be able to respond quickly. Hypothermia is possible even above 40°F if the person is chilled by rain, sweat or submersed in cold water. Mild hypothermia includes shivering, exhaustion, mental confusion, numb hands and/or feet. In cases of severe hypothermia, symptoms include difficulty speaking, amnesia, hard puffy blue skin, difficulty walking, and irrational behavior: paradoxical undressing (surge in blood tricks the person to think they’re overheated) and terminal burrowing (victim hides and dies in a small space) in the final stages.

Image: www.i.imgur.com/h3xkyJP.jpg

Image: www.i.imgur.com/h3xkyJP.jpg

How to prevent:

  • Drink plenty of water and eat plenty of food, as you’ll need calories from water and carbs from food to maintain body heat.
  • Dress in layers, and do not leave any major areas uncovered in order to prevent heat loss.
  • Most important: do not drink alcohol or smoke before going on a hike. Alcohol blocks your body’s natural defenses against the cold, constricting blood vessels, lowering blood flow to the skin, thereby lowering your body’s core temperature.
  • Avoid extreme cold temperatures and high winds.
  • Avoid wearing wet clothes. Clothes can get wet from sweat, which can freeze if you stop.

How to Treat:

  • Take the victim indoors or some place warm.
  • Once in a warm area, remove any wet clothing and dry the person.
  • Wrap the affected person with blankets, towels, coats, making sure to warm their torso and head first then proceed to hands and feet.
  • Body heat can also help, so hug the person to give them warmth.
  • Shivering is also recommended since it warms the body.
  • Give the person warm drinks (not alcohol) or high energy foods, such as chocolate. Only do this if they can swallow normally.
  • Be sure to warm the person gradually, and not all once like immersing them in warm water, which   causes heart arrhythmia.
  • Though a person with severe hypothermia may be motionless and without breath, do not assume the person is dead. Try to resuscitate them with CPR. Continue CPR until the victim is warmed, responds or medical aid is available.

Tip: When using hot water bottles or chemical hot packs, wrap them in cloth, so as not to apply directly on the skin.

Image: www.slowtwitch.com

Image: www.slowtwitch.com

Frostbite

Though your body may be nice and warm, uncovered areas of skin are affected by cold, icy and windy conditions. People usually exhibit frostbite or frostnip on their ears, fingers, toes, and nose. Frostbite occurs when the skin and tissue freeze due to exposure to cold temperatures. Blood vessels close and the skin starts to constrict at 32°F. This eventually leads to freezing and death of those skin tissues. Frostnip (considered a first degree condition) affects only the surface of the skin with itching, pain, and often white, red or yellow patches, and some numbness. Frostnip will not cause permanent damage. If exposure to freezing temperatures continues, the skin begins to harden, but without deep tissue being affected, and you’ll get blisters that last 1 to 2 days. Sometimes these blisters become hard and blacken. The more severe cases of frostbite last for 3 or 4 days. This includes the freezing of muscles, tendons, blood vessels, and nerves. When frostbitten, the skin becomes hard, waxy, and the area becomes useless and completely numb. In severe cases, the damage is permanent. Extreme frostbite may result in amputation if the area becomes infected with gangrene. To prevent frostbite, you can follow some of the same prevention tips for hypothermia.

Image: www.orphanedanything.tumblr.com

Image: www.orphanedanything.tumblr.com

How to Treat:

  • Take victim to a warm, dry location, preferably indoors.
  • Give victim pain relief medicine before rewarming cold areas safely and calmly without excessive movement, which may worsen the skin tissue.
  • Wrap frostbitten areas to prevent movement. Use blankets to wrap the person.
  • Warming through use of body heat and room temperature can help the victim’s body warm itself.
  • For severe cases, going to the hospital may be the only option to rewarm quickly without burning.
  • Rewarming is usually done by immersing injured tissue in a water bath at a temperature of 104°F to 108°F.
Image: www.pinterest.com/pin/478296422896799544/

Image: www.pinterest.com

Great you’ve made it to a warm place! Make sure to prepare for winter by checking our winter camping tips. And don’t forgot to download our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps to find a cool winter wonderland escape!

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