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Weather Related Injuries – Frostbite, Heat Illness & Heatstroke

Frostbitten hands

Frostbitten hands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s really important that you’re prepared for disasters in all weathers, ‘cos they can happen at any time of the year, when it’s hot, when it’s cold, when it’s dark, when it’s foggy! Weather related injuries are commonplace during a disaster, frostbite, heat illnesses and heatstroke all need urgent attention, and if you can’t get to a doctor during a disaster situation then you’ve gotta’ know the best way to deal with these problems.

Frostbite – is when the skin and underlying tissues freeze in extremely cold conditions, usually on your hands, feet, ears and nose. Your skin might feel like it’s burning, it might itch, it might become blistered and harden as the flesh begins to thaw. Frostbite is a very painful injury. The secret to treating frostbite is to warm the affected skin gradually. Get out of the cold, remove any wet items of clothing, warm up as much as possible. Put your hands or feet into a bowl of warm water if possible, and other areas should be kept warm in a blanket. If you have frostbite on your toes then try not to walk around anywhere as this can cause further damage. Don’t try to warm up using a direct source of heat like a fire or a stove.

At the other end of the scale of severe weather conditions, you may be in danger of suffering a heat related illness. Heat exhaustion can range from being a mild dose of heat cramps to severe, potentially life threatening heatstroke. If you treat the heat exhaustion quickly enough then you can prevent it from developing into heatstroke . . . prevention is always better than cure. The signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion include;

  • Feeling dizzy or faint
  • Sweating heavily
  • Nausea
  • Weak but rapid heartbeat
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low grade fever
  • Skin becomes pale, moist and cool
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Urine is dark colored

If you, or somebody who is with you has suspected heat exhaustion then you’ve gotta’ act quickly . . .

  • Get them out of the sunshine, somewhere shady, air conditioned is great if at all possible
  • Loosen their clothing or remove parts of it
  • Lay them down with their legs elevated slightly higher than their torso
  • Cool the person as much as possible by sponging, spraying or fanning
  • Give the person something cool to drink, something non-alcoholic which does not contain caffeine

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