Frostbite & Hypothermia: First Aid

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  • 0:00 The Dangers of the Cold
  • 0:25 First Aid: Hypothermia
  • 2:05 First Aid: Frostbite
  • 3:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

In this lesson, you're going to learn about two dangers associated with the cold: hypothermia and frostbite, as well as the basic first aid involved with both of them.

The Dangers of the Cold

While the majority of people like warmth, I love the cold. I mean, I love it when my jaw freezes shut; maybe it's the Russian in me? But as much as I love the cold, I certainly don't like the signs related to hypothermia and frostbite. Both of which I've had, given my excursions in the wilds of winter. Perhaps one day you will come across someone who has hypothermia or frostbite.

First Aid: Hypothermia

Using this lesson's tactics, you will be able to help them until they can get appropriate medical care. Hypothermia is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body's temperature falls before 95F (35C) because it can no longer regulate its temperature when faced with a cold stressor.

Hypo means abnormally low, and thermia implies body temperature.

Maybe you climb mountains? That is a very real place and activity where hypothermia can occur. Let's say you and your climb partner head up the mountain and you notice that he is shivering, seems to be stumbling, is getting confused as to where you are, doesn't have much energy and is even mumbling. Those are all potential signs of hypothermia. Actually, shivering is not always present, especially in the end stages of hypothermia, so keep that in mind. What do you do?

Well if you are at a place where you have a signal, call 911. Next, try to get the person into a warm shelter. If that can't occur, as is often the case on a mountain, then get the person out of the wind. Make sure their head and neck are well insulated and if they are on the ground, put something between them and the ground to keep them warm.

If the person is wet, remove their wet clothing, and replace them with dry and warm clothing or blankets. Give them something warm to drink, like warm water. Do not give alcohol, as is actually hurts their rewarming process even though it makes the person feel artificially warmer. If you are able to use a heating device to help rewarm the person, do not do so too quickly. Instead gradually warm them up with something like an electric blanket or hot water bottles that are wrapped in a towel. Finally, concentrate on warming the center of the body, like the chest and neck area, and not the arms and legs.

First Aid: Frostbite

Sometimes a person who is hypothermic will have frostbite, a cold-induced injury to the tissues, such as the skin and muscles. This commonly happens with fingers, toes, the nose, and ears. Signs to look out for when climbing the mountain or doing anything else in the cold include pale or red skin that is cold and looks waxy, prickling or numbness in the area, blisters or pain in severe cases.

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