Community Education-Cold Emergencies
Welcome to the final community education article for this year! We wanted to take a second to thank those who have been reading our monthly articles and sharing them with friends, family, and coworkers. We at Plymouth Ambulance hope you have a Happy and Safe Holidays coming up! Without further adieu, we are going to be talking about cold emergencies now that the weather has changed and temperatures have dropped.
What is a Cold Emergency?
A cold emergency is a condition that is directly related to cold exposure due to weather, submersion, etc. The most common cold emergencies are Frostbite and Hypothermia. Both can be life threatening and range from mild symptoms to severe symptoms.
What are the signs and symptoms of Hypothermia?
As stated above, the signs and symptoms range based on exposure to the cold source. Mild symptoms include:
- Bright red, cold skin (especially in infants and the elderly)
- Clumsiness or lack of coordination
- Drowsiness or very low energy
- Shivering, though this may stop as body temperature drops
As exposure is prolonged, you can see symptoms such as:
- Weak pulse
- Confusion or memory loss
- Slurred speech or mumbling
- Slow, shallow breathing
- Loss of consciousness
What are the signs and symptoms of Frostbite?
Frostbite is the visible cold injury that is characterized by reddened skin that eventually progresses to pale, hard skin due to the freezing of the skin and underlying tissues. Frostbite is divided into multiple stages based of severity of the injury. They are as follows:
- Frostnip- is mild frostbite that irritates the skin, causing redness and a cold feeling followed by numbness. Frostnip doesn’t permanently damage the skin and can be treated with first-aid measures.
- Superficial Frostbite- your skin feels warm, a sign of serious skin involvement. A fluid-filled blister may appear 24 to 36 hours after rewarming the skin.
- Deep Frostbite- you may experience numbness. Joints or muscles may no longer work. Large blisters form 24 to 48 hours after rewarming. Afterward, the area turns black and hard as the tissue dies.
Treatment for Hypothermia and/or Frostbite?
There are similar treatments for both cold emergency categories. Firstly, you should call 911 immediately if serious cold emergency symptoms are noticed. While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, it is best to remove yourself or the patient from exposure to the cold environment. Do not rapidly warm them as this will send the body into shock due to the extreme temperature change. If they are wearing wet clothing, gently remove it. You can give them warm, sweet, non-alcoholic beverages while waiting if they are on hand. If they have severe symptoms and go unresponsive, check for pulses and breathing. If they are not present, perform CPR until further medical help arrives.
For more information, go to https://www.mayoclinic.org/first-aid/first-aid-hypothermia/basics/art-20056624
Again, have a Happy and safe Holidays. If you ever are unsure if someone is suffering an emergency, CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY and be sure that help is on the way. Do not hesitate to call, we are open 24/7 and on holidays!