• Winter Warning: Tips for Preventing Frostbite and Hypothermia

    IMAGE Outdoor sports don't have to stop just because it is cold. In fact, many hikers, bikers, runners, and obviously skiers and snowshoers relish the invigorating cold of the winter months.
    Before you head out for a day-long excursion in seriously cold weather, take the following steps to avoid frostbite and hypothermia.
    • An outer layer made of water-repellent and wind-proof material (eg, Goretex or nylon)
    • A middle layer of wool or synthetic fabric (eg, Qualofil or Pile) to absorb sweat and retain insulation
    • A synthetic layer (eg, polypropylene or Capilene) closest to your skin to wick away moisture from perspiration
    It is just as important to stay dry as it is to stay warm, including keeping sweat away from your skin.
    Cover your head, face, and neck with a hat (or hood) and scarf or a balaclava. Since mittens are warmer, but gloves allow more use of your fingers, try wearing lightweight gloves under your mittens in case you need to use your hands. Keep your feet warm and dry with two pairs of socks (wool or synthetic).
    Dehydration can contribute to hypothermia. Drink plenty of water and drinks with electrolytes (such as Gatorade) if you will be active for a long period of time. Avoid drinks with alcohol and caffeine.
    Your body needs food to fuel your exercise and to generate body heat, so do not head out on an empty stomach. And bring along plenty of snacks, like trail mix, energy bars, fruit, and bread.
    Fatigue can contribute to hypothermia, so be aware of your energy level and plan the length of your excursion accordingly. Rest when necessary and cut the outing short if you are uncertain about your stamina.
    A friend can help you if you get tired and keep an eye on your face, cheeks, and ears for signs of frostbite. Do periodic checks for cold, wet, and numb areas, especially your face, feet, and hands.
    Temperatures below freezing (32°F) and slightly higher temperatures accompanied by wind chill effects are risk factors for hypothermia and frostbite. Keep an eye on weather forecasts and plan your outdoor activities for the relatively warmer days without snow or rain.

    RESOURCES

    Appalachian Mountain Club http://www.outdoors.org/

    Outdoor Action http://www.princeton.edu/~oa/index.shtml/

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    Canadian Red Cross http://www.redcross.ca/

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/

    References

    Curtis R. Outdoor action guide to hypothermia and cold weather injuries. Outdoor Action website. Available at: http://www.princeton.edu/~oa/safety/hypocold.shtml. Accessed July 14, 20012.

    Frostbite. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 15, 2011. Accessed July 14, 2012.

    Hypothermia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated October 4, 2011. Accessed July 14, 2012.

    Keep your warmth: how to avoid, recognize, and treat hypothermia. Appalachian Mountain Club website. Available at: http://www.outdoors.org/recreation/hiking/hiking-hypothermia.cfm. Accessed July 14, 2012.

    Revision Information

  • Join WellZones today.

    Make a Change For LifeLearn more

    Wellmont LiveWell is creating a new tradition of wellness in the mountains by providing individuals with tools and encouragement to live healthier lifestyles.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease early and prevent heart attacks with HeartSHAPE® - a painless, non-invasive test that takes pictures of your heart to scan for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.


  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.