When the weather outside is frightful, frostbite can be a real threat. With temperatures at just 40 degrees and wind as light as 5 miles per hour, frostbite is already a possibility. Frostbite is when skin tissue freezes. It usually affects the face, ears, or fingertips. Frostbite begins with numbness and then graduates to a pins and needles feeling. This is followed by severe pain, itching, and burning. Severe frostbite is accompanied by skin changes. The skin can turn white, gray, yellow, or black. It eventually can become hard, waxy, and develop blisters. When working in the field, it is imperative to protect yourself against the elements.
Here are some tips to keep warm while in the field this winter:
1. Dress in Layers: It always pays to layer. You can add or take off items as needed. In the cold weather, make sure to layer warm wools and knits with a top layer that is waterproof.
2. Stay Dry: Always be prepared in case you get wet. Have an extra pair of clothes as well as waterproof outerwear and boots. Water can chill your body much faster than the cold air.
3. Stay Active: Keep moving to avoid frostbite. Continually move and wiggle toes and fingers.
4. Avoid Alcohol: Alcohol could prevent you from realizing there is a problem.
If you or someone you're with begins to feel symptoms of frostbite, get out of the cold, remove wet clothing immediately, and immerse the affected skin in warm water. If the frostbite is serious, call 9-1-1, there are several things you can do to keep safe while awaiting the ambulance or during the trip to the hospital:
1. Wrap the victim in a blanket or something else warm.
2. Do not massage limbs; this could cause further damage.
3. Give the victim a hot, sweet drink - not alcohol or coffee.
4. Do not use dry heat to thaw frostbitten skin; it can cause further damage. Use warm water or body heat to warm frostbitten skin.
By following these steps, you and your co-workers will be safe from frostbite in the field.