Thar’s a Northern A Blow’in Matey
Cold Weather is here and with it brings the potential of injuries that we are not exposed to at any other time of year. Some of the injuries can be serious and even life threatening. So although we are sea faring pirates you land lubbers should observe some precaution when working and playing in the weather. Some of the cold weather injuries are Hypothermia, frostbite, frostnip, snow blindness, chilblains and even trench foot!
When exposed to cold weather, we lose heat in a variety of ways. These include:
· Radiation is the loss of heat through exposed surface area (skin and head).
It is rumored that up to 70% of all your heat loss is from your head, Poppy cock! This is a myth that has been busted numerous times the realistic percentage is more like 15 to 30 percent. I suppose it depends on how much area you have uncovered and how big your noggin is. I also do not want to negate the importance of covering your noggin and frankly any exposed skin has the potential to be damaged by the cold so common sense say cover up!
· Conduction is the loss of heat due to the transfer of heat via direct contact between the body and objects such as wet clothing or steel/metal objects. So common sense says limit your exposure to these objects. Avoid wet clothing or if you get your clothes wet then get out of them as soon as possible. Yes, it would be funny if your running buck naked in public however, let me remind you of the aforementioned radiation, exposed surface of skin. You naked, although a funny mental image deems not so good in our winter wonderland (not ot mention state and local laws)! So for all our sakes get out of the wet clothes and put on some dry clothes, thank you.
· Convection is the loss of heat via motion; wind chill is an example of convection. Arctic air that is super chilled and then makes contact to your exposed skin, refer to naked in public addressed in above paragraph.
· Evaporation, which is the loss of body heat due to water, perspiration, etc. taking away heat from the body as it dries. In summer months when you sweat the perspiration is meant to be our bodies air conditioner. It wicks the heat out of our body and cools us as it dries in the winter your body acts the same way does the exact function but in the winter it could prove to be detrimental to you. So think of it this way Perspiration, it is exactly the same, except different.
There are several precautions you can take to avoid Hypothermia a condition that occurs when the body’s core temperature is below normal. Here are some common sense suggestions:
· Wear several layers of clothing rather than one or two bulky layers. Air gets trapped between the layers and will act as insulation thus, adding even more layers between you and Jack Frost trying to “nose your nips”!
· Always wear at hat and a scarf. Remember a lot of heat loss goes right through your head, heat rises you know? The hat and scarf are making a fashion comeback so have fun with it.
· Avoid wet clothing, shoes, socks and gloves. Yep sounds a lot simpler than it is to implement. I work out in the weather and wet shoes and gloves are just a part of it so I use water resistant boots and neoprene gloves. In also have used those cheap plastic gloves you can buy 100 for a buck and put them on under the laether gloves to reduce the moisture getting to my skin. I have on hand spare pairs of socks and gloves so I can change them out if they get wet. For most of you just avoid it and all will be well me hearty’s.
· Drink warm liquids like tea, hot coffee or chocolate. Your not supposed to drink alchoholic beverages because it contributes to heat loss as well does caffeine however, I think they believe they expect that the sugar in the coffee tea and cocoa will help your body generate body heat. So what if you’re like me and do not drink tea, coffee or cocoa (without Irish Cream)? We are screwed, riots in the street, worldwide panic of biblical proportions, cats and dogs sleeping together, complete pandemonium. Well that may be an exaggeration, so how about we caffeine free fiends? Drink some sports drink or simple water if your not into the sugars and crap. Keep in mind dehydration is still a concern in the winter, I don’t mean to sound like a nancy, but, it could happen! If it doesn’t kill you it will make you look stupid because you read this and you know better! Stay hydrated matey and you’ll sail another day.
· Wearing gloves, scarves and or a face mask (except in a bank) can help avoid frost bite or frost nip by covering the exposed skin, seems like common sense right? Sure but there are countless reports of Frostbite and frostnip each year not all of them can be amung the stupid! Just maybe they got caught off guard…….yea, we will go with that.
Watch for signs and symptoms of Hypothermia, referred to as the “Umbles”.
· stumbles, fumbles, mumbles and grumbles
· Stumbles – Light to severe shivers and dazed and confused consciousness. Shivering is the body’s defense against Hypothermia. The muscles of the body use the shivering action to attempt to generate heat around the vital organs by expending energy.
· Fumbles – Loss of fine motor skills and coordination, most noticeable in the hands.
· Mumbles – Slurred Speech
· Grumbles – Irrational behavior ,
sounds like me at new years eve but thats a different post.
Should you observe anyone with these symptoms, or experience them yourself, you should first try to reduce the heat loss. Try to conserve the heat that is present and replace the body heat that is being burned up to generate heat by adding layer:
· Adding layers of clothing. If you do not have additional clothing then in some cases skin to skin contact can transfer your body heat to the effected person’s body in an effective manner. (if you are female this is my personal method of choice!)
· Increase physical activity if mild hypothermia is present (such as continuing to shiver, running in place or cleaning your kitchen, scrubbing is could cardio).
· Change out of any wet clothing as soon as possible. (woohoo back to buck naked!)
· Find shelter to help block the wind or trap heat. (presumably you have put your clothes back on)
· Add fuel and fluids by eating foods high in carbohydrates and fats or commonly referred to as energy food. If you can drink warm liquids it will help warm the body from the core. It is also rumored that you can place a pat of butter in your maouth to desolve and your body will kick into overdrive to process it, bisquits are optional but tasty!
· If possible add heat from an outside source for example the car heater a flame or any other heat source, even hand warmers can help even a little but it may make the difference. Don’t forget the skin to skin contact, my favorite.
When severe Hypothermia has occurred then immediate medical attention is needed. If possible wrap the subjects in a shell of total insulation wrap them like a mummy with blankets. If you do not have ready access to blankets then Paper, cardboard, carpet, tarps and anything else you can get your hands on think mummy in layers. Then seek medical assistance immediately.
Frost Bite is more severe then Frost Nip. Both occur when circulation is reduced to the extremities allowing heat loss. The area may be pale, cold, and may be numb. Frost Nip is generally reversible by re-warming the area by brushing your teeth and gently blow warm air across the affected area or place it on a warm part of your body such as under your arms or between your legs. The more severe Frost bite should be examined and treated by medical personnel. Common sense says wearing gloves, insulated socks, scarves and hats covering sensitive areas susceptible to frostbite is a smart thing to do! But we dont always use common sense do we? Regularly perform self checks for cold areas, wet feet and/or numbness. If at any time you discover a cold injury stop what you are doing and re-warm the area. Don’t wait, remember countless numbers of reported cases of Frostbite started with Frost nip you know the less severe reversible kind.
The usually temporary sometimes permanent dimming of sight caused by the glare of reflected sunlight on snow.
In order to avoid Snow Blindness and freezing corneas and eyelashes always wear goggles, sunglasses or sun shields to protect your eyes. Snow Blindness can even occur during a snow storm if the cloud cover is thin. If you do develop snow blindness, it will generally feel your eyes are dry and irritated as if they are full of sand, not unlike welder’s burn if you know what that is. Moving or blinking becomes painful, light hurts and the eyes may swell. The treatment includes cold compresses, a dark environment and do not rub. Sounds like nap time to me!
Chilblain is a non freezing cold injury which, while painful, causes little or no permanent impairment. It appears as red, swollen skin which is tender, hot to the touch, and may itch. This can worsen to aching, prickly pins and needle type sensation, and then numbness. It can develop in only a few hours in skin exposed to the cold.
Prevent further exposure.
Remove wet, constrictive clothing.
Wash and dry affected areas gently
Elevate and cover with layers of loose, warm clothing and allow re-warming. (Pain and blisters may develop, and we will call that stupid tax!)
Do not pop blisters, apply lotions or creams, massage, expose to extreme heat, or allow subject to walk on injury.
Refer for medical treatment
Trench foot is very similar to Chilblain and occurs when your feet are cold and damp while wearing constricting footwear. Unlike frostbite, trench foot does not require freezing temperatures and can occur in temperatures up to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Trench foot can occur with only twelve hours of exposure. When affected by trench foot, the feet become numb, followed by a change in color to red or blue. As the condition worsens, the feet may swell. Advanced trench foot often involves blisters and open sores, which lead to fungal infections. In such cases trench foot is also known as “jungle rot”. If left untreated, trench foot usually results in gangrene and then requires amputation. If treated properly and in a timely manner, complete recovery is normal, but recovery is marked by sever short term pain as feeling returns. (also referred to as a stupid tax!)
Trench foot is easily prevented by keeping the feet warm and dry, also by changing your socks frequently when feet cannot stay dry.