by Capt. Earnest Fry
Medical Group registered nurse
1/29/2007 - ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- On average, 700 people in the United States die annually of hypothermia, which is when the body' s core body temperature drops below 95.
Low body temperature can be classified as mild, moderate or severe.
Frostbite and frostnip are classified as mild and are caused by exposure to cold temperature without adequate protection. Frostnip refers to the transient tingling and numbness without associated permanent tissue damage from cold injuries. Frostbite is more severe than frostnip and can be quite dangerous. Frostbite is caused when a part of the body has frozen - usually the face, nose, ears, fingers or toes. The colder and windier the weather, the quicker an unprotected body part can become frostbitten. Initially, the skin around a frostbitten area becomes red, then pale and very rarely, bluish. As the skin warms up there can be blister formation.
The best treatment of frostbite is prevention. This can be accomplished by: · Dressing warmly with proper fitting clothing. Several thin layers will help keep you dry and warm · Don't stay outside too long. Set reasonable time limits depending on how cold it is. According to Air Force Manual 10-100, page 199, "frostbite occurs in 15 minutes or less." · Go inside or call children inside from play to periodically warm up · When possible, avoid taking infants and very young children outdoors when it is colder than 40 · Use common sense. If cold weather or frostbite warnings are in effect, do not allow children outside
See attached chart for more information.
To treat an adult or child with frostbite exposure: · Take the victim indoors immediately and check for any numbness or pain in the fingers, toes, nose, cheeks or ears. · Gently move the affected body part to increase blood flow to area affected. · Warm the white frozen area against body, hold fingers to chest or under arms. · Be gentle, as frozen tissue can be damaged easily. Don't rub or massage the frozen area or break blisters · Soak frozen part or area in luke warm water for about 15 to 30 minutes. · If the frostbitten area doesn't improve with warming, remains white or turns blue, seek medical attention.
South Dakota can get extremely cold during the winter months, but if prepared, the winter season can be safe and enjoyable. Please remember that the best treatment is prevention. If you have any questions or concerns call your primary care provider at 385-6700. Please refer to bio environmental charts attached as basic guidance for planning exposure risks.