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Cold Weather Can Cause Health Emergencies

January 12, 2024

Frostbite and hypothermia are cold-related emergencies that may quickly become life or limb threatening.

Take these steps to avoid frostbite and hypothermia:

  • Be aware of the wind chill. Dress appropriately and avoid staying in the cold too long. Wear a hat and gloves when appropriate with layers of clothing. Avoid unnecessary exposure of any part of the body to the cold.
  • Drink plenty of warm fluids or warm water but avoid caffeine and alcohol. Stay active to maintain body heat.
  • Take frequent breaks from the cold.
  • Get out of the cold immediately if the signals of hypothermia or frostbite appear.

How to Identify and Treat Hypothermia

Hypothermia is the cooling of the body caused by the failure of the body’s warming system.

The goals of first aid are to restore normal body temperature and to care for any conditions while waiting for EMS personnel.

What are the signs of hypothermia?

  • Shivering
  • Numbness or weakness
  • Glassy stare
  • Apathy or impaired judgment
  • Loss of consciousness

What should you do if someone has hypothermia?

  1. CALL 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.
  2. Gently move the person to a warm place.
  3. Monitor breathing and circulation.
  4. Give rescue breathing and CPR if needed.
  5. Remove any wet clothing and dry the person.
  6. Warm the person slowly by wrapping in blankets or by putting dry clothing on the person.
    1. Hot water bottles and chemical hot packs may be used when first wrapped in a towel or blanket before applying. Do not warm the person too quickly, such as by immersing him or her in warm water.
    2. Warm the core first (trunk, abdomen), not the extremities (hands, feet).

Eric Brandmeyer, EMTP, RN, BSN

Director, EMS & Emergency Preparedness