When March comes along, you might think that Spring has sprung. But old man Winter isn’t done with us yet. Although the month of March may exit like a lamb, it often enters like a lion. The Midwest and Northeast can attest to this fact from cold temperatures and heavy snows just in the last few days.
Even in March, winter storms (this one is named “Scott”) occur every year in the United States; Scott brought a foot of snow to some areas. Extreme weather can cause fatalities among the unprepared. In blizzard conditions, 70% of deaths occur due to traffic accidents and 25% from hypothermia from being caught outside during the blizzard.
The key word is “outside”. If a blizzard knocks you off the grid as Scott did to 60,000 people, you might be tempted to travel to someplace warmer, but that’s how most deaths occur from winter storms.
This winter has already seen deadly cold snaps where people have found themselves at the mercy of the elements. Whether it’s on a wilderness hike or stranded in a car on a snow-covered highway, the physical effects of exposure to cold (also called “hypothermia”) can be life-threatening…
If you encounter a person who is unconscious, confused, or lethargic in cold weather, assume they are hypothermic until proven otherwise. Immediate action must be taken to reverse the ill effects.
Important measures to take are:
Get the person out of the cold. Move them into a warm, dry area as soon as possible. If you’re unable to move the person out of the cold, be sure to place a barrier between them, the wind, and the cold ground.
Monitor breathing. A person with severe hypothermia may be unconscious. Verify that they are breathing and check for a pulse. Begin CPR if necessary.
Take off wet clothing. If the person is wearing wet clothing, remove gently. Cover the victim with layers of dry blankets, including the head, but leave the face clear.
Share body heat. To warm the person’s body, remove your clothing and lie next to the person, making skin-to-skin contact. Then cover both of your bodies with blankets. Some people may cringe at this controversial notion, but it’s important to remember that you are trying to save a life. Gentle massage or rubbing may be helpful. Avoid being too vigorous.
Give warm oral fluids, but only if your victim is awake and alert. If so, provide a warm, nonalcoholic, non-caffeinated beverage to help warm the body. Coffee’s out, but how about some warm apple cider?
Use warm, dry compresses. Use a first-aid warm compress (a fluid-filled bag that warms up when squeezed), hand warmers wrapped in a towel, or a makeshift compress of warm, not hot, water in a plastic bottle.
These go in special places: the neck, armpit, and groin. Due to major blood vessels that run close to the skin in these areas, heat will more efficiently travel to the body core. Others areas you might warm include the hands and feet, but avoid applying direct heat to amy area. Don’t use hot water, a heating pad, or a heating lamp directly on the victim. The extreme heat can damage the skin, cause strain on the heart, or even lead to cardiac arrest…