Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Windchill and Hypothermia

Winter in the northeast can be enjoyable with all the wintertime activities. But if you're going to be outside for a while you have to be careful.  This post is on frostbite and hypothermia. 

During the winter we not only have to protect ourselves from the cold but also the wind.  Temperature and wind combine to produce something called the windchill temperature index.

The wind chill factor makes us feel colder than the air temperature really is. This is due to the interaction of air temperature and wind increases the heat loss from your body.. when the air temperature is low wind chill can quickly freeze exposed skin.

Here's a chart that shows the windchill feel like temperature, when we combine air temperature and wind speed.

What happens if you stay outside for too long? First, the parts of your body that are further away from your torso (such as your face, fingers, and toes) will begin to freeze.  This is called frostbite.  Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, or the tip of the nose.

Here's a image that shows the effects of frostbite.

If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately! If you must wait for help, slowly rewarm affected areas. However, if the person is also showing signs of hypothermia, warm the body core before the extremities.

Hypothermia is a serious medical emergency that occurs when the body’s temperature drops below 95° F (35° C). Your body loses heat faster than it can produce it, and your blood will begin to thicken, making it hard for your heart to pump blood.   Without the proper amount of body heat the heart, lungs, and other organs cannot work correctly. Hypothermia is very dangerous and can eventually lead to death.

Dress for both temperature and wind. You must keep your face covered on  a windy cold day.  before going out into conditions that can cause frostbite and hypothermia, you should dress in several layers of loose fitting, light weight clothing.  The other layer of clothing should be hooded and water and wind repellent.  Remember mittens offer better protection from the cold than gloves.

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