Weather Related Injuries – Frostbite, Heat Illness & Heatstroke

Weather Related Injuries


Weather-Related Injuries

Weather-related injuries are commonplace during a disaster. Things like frostbite, heat illnesses, and heatstroke all need urgent attention. If you can’t get to a doctor during a disaster situation, do your best to treat the issue until you’re able to seek medical attention.



Frostbite occurs when the skin and underlying tissues freeze in extremely cold conditions — typically on the hands, feet, ears, and nose. The skin might feel like it’s burning or it might itch. It might become blistered and harden as the flesh begins to thaw.

Frostbite can be a very painful injury. The secret to treating frostbite is to warm the affected skin gradually. If you or someone you know might have frostbite, do the following steps:

  1. Get out of the cold and remove any wet items of clothing.
  2. Warm up the person as much as possible. Put the affected area (typically the hands or feet) into a bowl of warm water if possible. Other areas should be kept warm in a blanket.Don’t try to warm up using a direct source of heat like a fire or a stove.
    • Note: If there is frostbite on the toes, do not allow the person to walk around as this can cause further damage.
  3. Seek medical attention as soon as possible. Prolonged frostbite can lead to amputation if left untreated.


Heat Illness and Heatstroke

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
  • pale skin
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • dark-colored urine

If you, or somebody who is with you has suspected heat exhaustion and/or heatstroke, do the following:

  • Get the person out of the sun and the heat. Try to get them somewhere shady or air-conditioned.
  • Loosen their clothing or remove parts of it to help them cool down.
  • Lay them down with their legs elevated slightly higher than their torso.
  • Cool the person as much as possible by wiping them down with a water-soaked cloth, sponging, spraying ,or fanning.
  • Give the person something cool to drink. Make sure the beverage is non-alcoholic and does not contain caffeine.