Cold Weather Safety Tips: Prevent Injury and Illness

Dec 3 • 2015

Cold weather is coming quickly, and it is extremely important to be prepared. Many people don’t realize how dangerous chilly temperatures can be. Here are a few of the most common cold weather injuries and illnesses that occur during the winter season and how you can prevent or identify them.

Non-Freezing Injuries
Non-freezing injuries are caused by extended exposure to cold temperatures or wet environments. This includes issues like immersion foot, trenchfoot, and chilblains. While these are some more of the milder winter health-hazards, it is still extremely important to know what symptoms to look for and how to prevent them. When going outside, be sure to wear plenty of layers and stay as dry as possible. Extremities like your hands and feet are the most likely to be impacted.

If you notice redness, swelling, tingling, numbness, itching, or blisters, these are symptoms of non-freezing cold weather injuries.

One of the most recognized cold-weather hazards is frostbite, but many people don’t realize how severe it can be. If not taken care of, it can cause permanent damage to body tissue and even result in amputation. For people who have poor blood circulation normally, frostbite risk increases. Dressing appropriately is the best way to prevent frostbite, but it is also extremely important to stay as dry as possible.

Symptoms of frostbite include:

  • Loss of feeling and color
  • Reduced blood flow to extremities
  • Tingling, aching, or stinging
  • Numbness
  • Skin appearing blue, pale, or waxy

Hypothermia occurs when your body temperature falls to 95 degrees or below. If this is not detected right away, it can result in death. The older you get, the slower your body adjusts to changes in temperature. Because of this, you are less likely to realize you are getting colder – this puts you at the highest risk for hypothermia. However, people of any age can suffer from this if they are not careful. Be sure to wear appropriate clothing, including layers, a hat, and proper hand and feet coverings.

Symptoms of hypothermia include:

  • Feeling cold
  • Shivering
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Slurred speech
  • Slowed heartbeat

Stay safe this winter by being prepared for cold weather and recognizing any symptoms of an injury or illness you may be experiencing as quickly as possible.