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Safety - Hypothermia and Frostbite

You are here: Safety > Health > Hypothermia and Frostbite


Personal health and well being should be a concern of all activities of daily living. This includes those activities that are done for recreational enjoyment. Though often not encountered, there are some health hazards that have potential exposure for those visiting our lands. To become familiar with these hazards, click on the following links for an in depth explanation of the process, potential for exposure, and safety measures.

For more information on health related hazards see:

Lyme Disease

Hantavirus

Heat Exhaustion/Heat Stroke


Hypothermia and Frostbite

Hypothermia is a condition that results when more heat escapes from your body than your body can produce. The control mechanisms of the body fail to maintain the normal core body temperature of 98.6 F. A body temperature of lower than 95 F signals hypothermia. Other signs and symptoms include a gradual loss of mental and physical abilities, rapid breathing, muscle rigidity, loss of manual dexterity, and unconsciousness.

Frostbite can appear as a robust redden area, often mistaken as a bite. However, it is body tissue that is frozen by severe weather conditions. Most often frostbite affects exposed parts such as fingers, toes, nose, chin, and earlobes. Frostbite occurs frequently when temperatures drop below freezing and there is prolonged exposure to these temperatures. Signs and symptoms of frostbite include a loss of feeling and a pale appearance of the affected extremity. Treatment of frostbite includes seeking medical attention and a slow rewarming of the affected areas.

The key to preventing hypothermia and frostbite is to take precautions in exposing your body to conditions that allow the core body temperature to decrease. Protective clothing (layered clothing) should be worn. Be aware and plan for weather conditions. Avoid getting wet in cold weather.

Treatment of hypothermia varies with the severity of the disease. For mild hypothermia, warming is the key. Any wet clothes should be removed. Warm liquids should be given and the person kept warm for several hours. For moderate hypothermia, the person should be treated the same as mild, but no drinks given because of the deteriorating mental status. Medical attention should be obtained immediately. With severe cases, the person may be semiconscious or unconscious. Cover should be applied to prevent further heat loss and medical attention obtained immediately. If total loss of unconsciousness occurs, the person should be checked for a pulse and breathing and Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation began if warranted.

 



US Forest Service
Last modified March 28, 2013
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