Cold Weather Safety
Alberta Health Services EMS responds to many cold weather related emergencies every winter. Simple actions such as dressing appropriately and anticipating sudden weather changes can help keep you both warm and safe during the winter season.
- Frost-nip occurs when skin is extremely cold, but not frozen. It commonly affects the ears, nose, cheeks, fingers and toes.
- The skin appears red but also turns white when pressed. It may feel numb to the touch.
- When treated promptly, frost-nipped skin will heal without complication.
- Gently re-warming the affected area in a warm environment is advised.
- Frostbite is when skin becomes so cold, the skin and underlying tissue freeze completely.
- It may look white and waxy and will feel hard to the touch.
- Treatment begins with removal from the cold environment and placing the affected area in warm, not hot, water (about 41°C) until re-warmed.
- Seek further medical attention as required.
- Hypothermia is abnormally low body temperature (less than 34°C as compared to normal body temperature of about 37°)
- People suffering hypothermia may act inappropriately with uncharacteristic stumbling, mumbling, and fumbling, as their body temperature continues to lower.
- Early recognition and prompt medical attention is crucial. Left untreated, hypothermia may progress to coma and death.
- Call 9-1-1. Do not forget to protect yourself from the factors that originally lead to the patient’s situation.
- Gentle re-warming should start as quickly as possible including: removal of wet or constrictive clothing, covering with blankets or sleeping bags, and protecting the patient from further heat loss (wind, moisture and contact with cold surfaces).