Did You Know?

Cold Injuries


Cold Weather Safety

Winter adventures can be exciting and as long as you are prepared to keep yourself warm, you'll be fine.  Of course, frigid winter conditions make the proper choice and use of clothing more vital than at other times of the year.  As you prepare your cold weather clothing, keep warm by following this -  C.O.L.D..


Since insulation is effective when the heat of your body is trapped by dead air spaces, keep your insulating layers of clothing clean and fluffy.  Things like dirt and perspiration can mat down these insulating air spaces and reduce the warmth of the garment.


Avoid overheating by adjusting your layers of clothing to meet the outside temperature and the exertions of your activities.  Excessive sweating can dampen your clothing and cause chilling.  See C above.

L-Loose Layering

A steady flow of warm blood is essential to keep all parts of your body heated.  Wear several loosely fitting layers of clothing and footwear that will allow maximum insulation without impeding your circulation.


Damp clothing and skin can cause your body to cool quickly, possibly leading to frostbite or hypothermia.  Keep clothing dry by avoiding clothes such as cotton.  Brush snow from your clothing before it melts.  Loosen the clothing around your neck and chest.  Body heat drives perspiration through many layers of breathable cloth, so do not wear waterproof clothes.


The body looses the most heat, 80% through your uncovered head.  This happens because of the many blood vessel that are close to the skin's surface.  Wearing a hat or other head protection will help conserve this heat loss.

Cold Weather Emergencies

When you hear that someone has "died of exposure", the killer may have actually been hypothermia - from hypo, meaning "low" and thermia, meaning "heat".  Hypothermia occurs when the body is losing more heat than it can generate.

A victim of hypothermia begins feeling chilly, tired and irritable.  If they do not receive help, they will begin to shiver.  Soon their shivering becomes violent, the bodies best defense against hypothermia, as their body tries to generate heat.  The victim cannot clearly think to take care of themselves.  They may stumble and fall.  If the victim continues to become chilled, the shivering will stop and they will be close to death.

First Aid  

If someone is showing any symptoms of hypothermia, take action immediately.  Get the patient warm by moving them indoors or into a warm vehicle.  Get off any wet clothes they may be wearing.  Wrap them in fry warm garments such as a blanket or sleeping bag. Warming MUST take place slowly.  Do not place them in a hot bath.  Sudden warmup will place the victim in shock and the shock, not the cold will kill them.  Do not give an unconscious patient anything by mouth and call for help.


Flesh that has been exposed to low temperatures is in danger of freezing and the longer the exposure, the more damaging the injury.  Farthest from the bodies core are the toes, fingers, cheeks, ears & nose and are the most susceptible to frostbite.

How to spot it.  As flesh freezes, it may become painful and then numb, although the victim seldom realizes what is happening.  If the freezing continues, the area will stiffen and become a grayish or whitish color.

First Aid

Get the affected area warm and keep it warm.  In the field, thaw fingers by holding them beneath your clothes and under your armpits.  Press a bare palm over a frosted nose, ears, and cheeks.  Wrap toes and feet in a warm blanket.  DO NOT use hot water or hold the injury close to a heat source.  DO NOT rub with snow.  Excessive heat and abrasion can cause serious tissue damage.  Above all, this person requires medical attention. CALL FOR HELP.


Sudden facial contact with cold water (below 70 degrees) touches off a body reflex called the "mammalian diving reflex".  This complex series of body responses shuts off blood circulation to most parts of the body except the hear, lungs and brain.  It has happened to all of us, an example is, step into a cold shower when you think it is warm, you gasp and say something.  This involuntary gasp or reflexive sucking in of air is this "diving reflex".  Your body, through this automatic, bellowlike action of your lungs, is trying to expand oxygen intake rapidly.  This "diving reflex", is the bodies way of conserving what little oxygen remains in the blood so that it gets transported to the brain. Many "good" swimmers become "nonswimmers" because water is often sucked into the respiratory track when they get "dumped" into cold water suddenly, creating a "drowning" situation.

While we know little of the human diving reflex, scientists know that diving mammals like whales and seals depend on a similar mechanism to survive long periods submerged.

By itself, the "mammalian diving reflex" won't protect the victim.  Survival also depends on the following:

What to do in a cold water emergency

  1. Call for help.
  2. DO NOT PLACE YOURSELF IN HARMS WAY TO SAVE A VICTIM.  Let the professionals with the training and equipment do the rescuing.  Remember, "More would-be rescuers die each year than actual victims".
  3. Clear the air passages.  If the victim is not breathing, begin mouth to mouth rescue breathing.  If the victim does not have a pulse, begin CPR.  Do not worry about getting the water out of the victims lungs, the body will absorb it quickly.
  4. Prevent the victim from losing more body heat, but do not  rewarm the victim. Improper rewarming might cause further harm to the victim.
  5. Get the victim to the nearest medical facility quickly.
  6. Do not give up.  Cold water victims look dead.  Their skin is blue and cold to the touch.  There may not be a detectable heart beat or breathing.  The eyes are fixed and dilated and there is no other sign of life.  However, if the water is cold, there is still a good chance of survival.  People have been under cold water for long periods of time and have made complete recoveries.
  7. Children and young people are the most frequent victims involved in cold water emergencies.  They are however, the best candidates for resuscitation since their "mammalian diving reflex" is more pronounced.  The colder the water and the younger the victim, the better chance they have of survival.


NOAA's National Weather Service urges residents to keep abreast of local forecasts and warnings and familiarize themselves with key weather terminology.

Winter Storm Warning: Issued when hazardous winter weather in the form of heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet is imminent or occurring. Winter Storm Warnings are usually issued 12 to 24 hours before the event is expected to begin.

Winter Storm Watch: Alerts the public to the possibility of a blizzard, heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet. Winter Storm Watches are usually issued 12 to 48 hours before the beginning of a Winter Storm.

Winter Storm Outlook: Issued prior to a Winter Storm Watch. The Outlook is given when forecasters believe winter storm conditions are possible and are usually issued 3 to 5 days in advance of a winter storm.

Blizzard Warning: Issued for sustained or gusty winds of 35 mph or more, and falling or blowing snow creating visibilities at or below mile; these conditions should persist for at least three hours.

Lake Effect Snow Warning: Issued when heavy lake effect snow is imminent or occurring.

Lake Effect Snow Advisory: Issued when accumulation of lake effect snow will cause significant inconvenience.

Wind Chill Warning: Issued when wind chill temperatures are expected to be hazardous to life within several minutes of exposure.

Wind Chill Advisory: Issued when wind chill temperatures are expected to be a significant inconvenience to life with prolonged exposure, and, if caution is not exercised, could lead to hazardous exposure.

Winter Weather Advisories: Issued for accumulations of snow, freezing rain, freezing drizzle, and sleet which will cause significant inconveniences and, if caution is not exercised, could lead to life-threatening situations.

Dense Fog Advisory: Issued when fog will reduce visibility to mile or less over a widespread area.

Snow Flurries: Light snow falling for short durations. No accumulation or light dusting is all that is expected.

Snow Showers: Snow falling at varying intensities for brief periods of time. Some accumulation is possible.

Snow Squalls: Brief, intense snow showers accompanied by strong, gusty winds. Accumulation may be significant. Snow squalls are best known in the Great Lakes region.

Blowing Snow: Wind-driven snow that reduces visibility and causes significant drifting. Blowing snow may be snow that is falling and/or loose snow on the ground picked up by the wind.

Sleet: Rain drops that freeze into ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet usually bounces when hitting a surface and does not stick to objects. However, it can accumulate like snow and cause a hazard to motorists.

Freezing Rain: Rain that falls onto a surface with a temperature below freezing. This causes it to freeze to surfaces, such as trees, cars, and roads, forming a coating or glaze of ice. Even small accumulations of ice can cause a significant hazard.

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