Definitions and First Aid Tips
Hypothermia is the cooling of the body when the body loses heat faster than it can produce heat. Normally, the body's temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. When the temperature falls below 97 degrees Fahrenheit, the symptoms of mild hypothermia begin. When the body's temperature falls to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the victim falls into a coma. If the body temperature falls to 78 degrees Fahrenheit, death occurs.
The outside temperature does not have to be below freezing for hypothermia to occur. Being wet increases the chances of hypothermia because the evaporation of the moisture causes further cooling of the body.
The warning signs of hypothermia are uncontrollable shivering, drowsiness, exhaustion, slurred speech, disorientation and a loss of muscle coordination.
First Aid for Hypothermia:
- Get the victim out of the cold and out of wet clothing.
- Wrap the victim in blankets and apply heat, but do not warm the body too quickly.
- Warm the body core first and the extremities second.
- If the victim is conscious, give him warm beverages to drink. Avoid beverages with alcohol or caffeine such as tea, coffee or hot chocolate.
- Try to keep the victim awake.
- Perform CPR if the victim stops breathing.
Frostbite is the freezing of body tissue, which results in permanent damage. The areas frequently affected are the fingers, toes and ears. The best way to prevent frostbite is to keep the body covered and warm in cold weather and to limit the amount of time you spend outside.
When the skin's temperature becomes less than 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the skin starts to become numb. If the skin becomes colder, blood flow, which helps to keep the area warm, is reduced and the tissues begin to freeze.
Mild frostbite is called frostnip and involves the area becoming numb and red or white. If the skin is allowed to freeze further, superficial frostbite occurs. The skin is frozen, but the tissue underneath is not. The skin becomes white and firm to the touch. Finally, deep frostbite occurs. The skin turns a yellow-white or blue-white, and the tissues are firm and frozen.
First Aid for Frostbite:
- The frozen extremity should be covered, splinted and may be slightly elevated, and the body should be slowly rewarmed.
- Do not warm an area if there is a chance that it will refreeze. This can cause more damage.
- Do not rub frostbitten parts.
- Do not use a hot water bottle or heat lamps to warm a victim. Excessive heat can cause more damage.
- Do not allow the victim to smoke or drink beverages containing alcohol or caffeine. These constrict blood flow further.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas. It is produced when carbon-containing fuels such as wood, natural gas and oil are incompletely burned. It is dangerous because it binds to hemoglobin in blood. This restricts the amount of oxygen that can bind. Oxygen is necessary for the body to function properly. When carbon monoxide binds to hemoglobin in a person's body, that person suffers from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause chest pain and fatigue. In high levels, it produces flu-like symptoms such as weakness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, disorientation and headache. The poisoning ultimately can result in brain damage and death. About 250 people die every year of carbon monoxide poisoning in their homes.
How To Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning:
- Do not use your oven or stove to heat your home.
- Make sure your room is well ventilated when using a space heater or kerosene heater.
- Do not use gasoline-powered generators or motors in a confined, unventilated space.
- Make sure your appliances and furnaces are working and vented properly.
- Install carbon monoxide detectors as close to sleeping areas as possible.
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