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Keeping Yourself Safe in Cold Weather

By Jim Nelson from J and J Lawn Service

Winter is fast approaching; some regions have already experienced snowfall this year! I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss cold weather safety.

Cold weather injuries happen because of an imbalance of body temperature regulation, or where heat loss is greater than heat production in an area of the body.

There are four primary types of cold injuries:

  • Hypothermia

  • Frostbite

  • Non-freezing cold injuries

  • Injuries related to cold environments

Cold weather injuries are preventable, but you need to be able to recognize the early signs and symptoms then take the proper preventive measures.

Anyone can become a victim of a cold weather injury given the right conditions.

Factors That Can Increase the Chance of a Cold Weather Injury

  • Improper Nutrition

  • Too Much Activity

  • Too Little Activity

  • Restrictive Clothing

  • Prior Cold Weather Injuries

  • Dehydration

  • Medications

  • Alcohol Intake

  • Nicotine Use

  • Current Medical Conditions

How to Prevent Cold Weather Injuries

  • Hydration

  • Drink warm fluids

  • Monitor urine color

  • Environment

  • Monitor weather conditions

  • Have warming areas if needed

  • If outside wear non-slip footwear

  • Eyes

  • Use dark UV protective glasses

  • Skin

  • Use lip balm and sunscreen

  • Always use gloves when handling equipment and fuel products

  • Keep the skin clean, dry & covered

  • Clothing

  • Wear layers worn loosely

  • Keep clothes and socks dry

  • Remember the acronym COLD

  • C – Keep it Clean

  • O – Avoid Overheating

  • L – Wear Clothing Loose and in Layers

  • D – Keep Clothing Dry

Cold Weather Injuries / Symptoms / Treatment

Hypothermia

A condition of low body core temperature below 95 degrees. It occurs when cold conditions are severe, windy, clothing is wet and periods of inactivity. This condition can also occur in warm climates during extended water exposure or immersion.

Symptoms

  • Initial Stages – Stumbling, confusion, slurred speech, dizziness, irritability, shivering

  • Severe Stages – Shivering stops, wants to lie down / sleep, faint heartbeat, faint breathing and unconsciousness

Treatment

  • Prevent further exposure to cold

  • If conscious drink warm / sweet liquids

  • Rewarm body temperature by body to body contact and warm blankets

  • Give CPR if needed

  • Evacuate from area immediately if severe

Frostbite

Fingers, toes, ears and nose are normally affected first. Is the freezing or crystallization of tissues; the exposure time can be minutes or instantaneous if the skin is exposed to extreme cold of high winds.

Symptoms

Skin feels cold, stiff, turns gray or waxy-white color, numbness, tingling or stinging sensation, blisters, absent or restricted movement in joints, purple or blackened skin

Treatment

Remove from cold to prevent further heat loss, remove any constrictive clothing and jewelry, rewarm affected area evenly with body heat until pain returns, DO NOT rewarm area if injury could refreeze before evacuation or victim has to walk for treatment, do not massage affected area, evacuate for medical treatment immediately

Non-Freezing Cold Injuries

Chilblains

Occurs in cold, wet conditions due to prolonged exposure of bare skin

Symptoms

Skin is initially pale and colorless, worsens to achy sensation then numbness, becomes red / swollen / hot / itchy & tender upon rewarming, in severe case blistering occurs

Treatment

Prevent further exposure, wash / dry area gently, rewarm with body heat, do not rub or massage, cover with dry sterile dressing, seek medical treatment

Trench / Immersion Foot

Results from prolonged exposure to water at temperatures below 50 degrees, high risk in wet areas, during wet weather or by sweat accumulating in boots or gloves

Symptoms

Skin initially appears wet / white / shriveled, sensations of pins and needles / tingling / numbness then pain, discoloration red / blush or black, becomes cold / swollen / waxy, may develop blisters, open weeping or bleeding, in extreme case the flesh dies

Treatment

Keep feet dry, change socks and apply foot powder often or when wet, have extra socks and boots

Other Conditions and Injuries Related to Cold Exposure

Dehydration

Excessive loss of body fluids can slow or prevent normal body functions, this may increase the chance for frostbite or hypothermia

Symptoms

Dark urine, irritability, dry mouth / tongue /throat, increased heartbeat, dizziness, stomach cramping or vomiting, mental sluggishness, unconsciousness

Treatment

Drink water, rest

Sunburn

Burning of the skin due to overexposure to sun / UV light

Symptoms

Chills, fever, redness, swelling, pain and blistering

Treatment

Applying soothing skin creams for minor cases, seek medical attention for severe cases, aspirin can be taken for pain

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Occurs when oxygen in body is replaced by carbon monoxide, can build from inadequate ventilation from engines, stoves and heaters

Symptoms

Drowsiness, headaches, ringing in ears, bright red lips / eyelids, nausea, unconsciousness, possibly death

Treatment

Move to fresh air immediately, seek medical aid promptly

Snow Blindness

Is inflammation and sensitivity of eyes caused by overexposure to UV rays of sun reflected by snow or ice

Symptoms

Gritty feeling in the eyes, redness and tearing, pain during eye movement, headache

Treatment

Remove from sunlight, blindfold eyes and cover with cool wet bandage, seek medical attention

Slips, Trips and Falls

The presence of ice and snow significantly increase the chance of these type injuries

Symptoms

After a fall resulting in impact or a twist pain maybe sharp and immediate, soreness & swelling can increase over the next few hours and up to a couple days after the incident

Treatment

Seek medical advice for pain limiting movement

Safety is the priority no matter what the task may be. No one will look after you better than you! So while out working during the cold winter months keep an eye on yourself and all those around you.

I wish you all the very best.

J and J Lawn Service
UAG Member 2018
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