Healthcare and Frostbite

Your Best Health Care: Healthcare and Frostbite

Healthcare and Frostbite

Cold
weather is fast approaching and may already be where you are now! Have you ever
been so cold that you thought body parts were frozen and ready to fall off?
Frostbite is a deadly serious health issue and is common where temperatures get
very low, especially during the winter months. Some areas of the world are more
prone to frigid weather, and the fear of getting frozen flesh is very real.
When the
storms howl and the ice and snow get deep, often the temps get very cold. Wind
chill is also a factor that takes the real temperature to a much colder “feels
like” temperature. That can be dangerous. If your exposed to bitter cold for
too long, you can develop frost bite.
The elderly
and children are especially at risk during very cold weather. According to
KidsHealth.org, frostbite is, literally, frozen body tissue — usually the skin,
but sometimes deeper tissue. It must be managed carefully to prevent permanent
tissue damage. The varying degrees of frostbite are based on how deep the
tissue injury goes. Mild cases affect a superficial area of the skin, while the
most severe cases can go all the way down to the muscle and bone. The areas
most prone to frostbite are the head, face, ears, hands, and feet.
Kids are
at greater risk for frostbite than most adults, both because they lose heat from
their skin more rapidly and because they’re often reluctant to leave their
winter fun to go inside and warm up. Frostbite needs medical attention from a
health care provider. More info on this topic is found at this website: http://kidshealth.org/parent/firstaid_safe/emergencies/frostbite.html.
According
to the National Institutes for Health,
symptoms of frostbite include the
following:
·        
Pins and
needles feeling, followed by numbness
·        
Hard, pale, and
cold skin that has been exposed to the cold for too long
·        
Aching,
throbbing or lack of feeling in the affected area
·        
Red and
extremely painful skin and muscle as the area thaws
·        
Very severe
frostbite may cause:
·        
Blisters
·        
Gangrene
(blackened, dead tissue)
·        
Damage to
tendons, muscles, nerves, and bone
Frostbite may
affect any part of the body. The hands, feet, nose, and ears are the places
most prone to the problem.
·        
If the
frostbite did not affect your blood vessels, a complete recovery is possible.
·        
If the frostbite affected the blood vessels, the damage
is permanent. Gangrene may occur. This may require removal of the affected body
part (amputation).
The University of Maryland Medical Center has published
info on who is most at risk for getting frostbite. These factors increase the
risk for frostbite:
·        
Intoxication with alcohol or other substances
·        
Very young or very old age
·        
Cardiovascular disease
·        
Peripheral vascular disease (narrowing of blood vessels
in the extremities)
·        
Poor circulation
·        
Taking beta-blockers
·        
Diabetes
·        
Hypothyroidism
·        
Exhaustion, hunger, malnutrition, or dehydration
·        
Winter sports, especially at high altitudes
·        
Outdoor work
·        
Windy and or wet weather
·        
Homelessness
·        
Severe injury
·        
Smoking
·        
Depression
·        
Previous frostbite
·        
Skin damage
·        
Constricting clothing and footwear
If you are going to be outside in cold temperatures, it’s
essential to prevent frostbite. Take these steps to keep warm:
·        
Wear several layers of warm clothing that allow you to
move while providing protection from wind and water.
·        
Wear dry, warm gloves, socks, and insulated boots. Hands
and feet account for 90 percent of injuries.
·        
Replace wet clothes immediately.
·        
Cover your head, preferably with earflaps, in extreme
conditions. About 30% of heat loss occurs through the head.
·        
Drink plenty of fluids and eat plenty of food during
lengthy outings. Do not drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or drink caffeine.
·        
Watch for the development of white patches on the face
and ears of your companions. These may signal frostbite.
If you
need to be traveling on the road in severe cold weather, here are some safety
tips from the Loudon County, Virginia sheriff’s office for you if you’re
driving in winter weather. Following these guidelines may help prevent your
need to get outside of your vehicle if you have any problems on the road:
·        
Do
not travel unless absolutely necessary. If you do have to make the trip, ensure
someone is aware of your route of travel.
·        
Always
keep the gas tank topped off. When it gets to half, fill it up.
·        
Turn
on your headlights.
·        
Carry
a cellular phone. Your cell phone can be used during emergencies and for
notifying those expecting your arrival in case there are weather delays.
·        
Always
buckle-up. Your seat belt can be the best protection against drivers who are
tense and in a hurry because of weather conditions.
·        
Clear
snow and ice from all windows and lights – even the hood and roof – before
driving.
·        
Pay
attention. Don’t try to out-drive the conditions. Remember the posted speed
limits are for dry pavement.
·        
Leave
plenty of room for stopping.
·        
Leave
room for maintenance vehicles and plows – stay back a safe stopping distance
and don’t pass on the right.
·        
Know
the current road conditions. Make sure you have your highway patrol rescue
number plugged into your phone.
·        
Use
brakes carefully. Brake early. Brake correctly. It takes more time to stop in
adverse conditions.
·        
Watch
for slippery bridges, even when the rest of the pavement is in good condition.
Bridges will ice up sooner than the adjacent pavement.
·        
Don’t
use your cruise control in wintry conditions. Even roads that appear clear can
have sudden slippery spots and the short touch of your brakes to deactivate the
cruise control feature can cause you to lose control of your vehicle.
·        
Don’t
get overconfident in your 4×4 vehicle. Remember that your four-wheel drive
vehicle may help you get going quicker than other vehicles but it won’t help
you stop any faster. 
Frostbite
is not something you want to experience; but if you feel that you or someone
you are with is showing symptoms, seek treatment immediately and don’t delay if
at all possible. Your health and life are at risk.

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