True North Blog

Wilderness First Aid Tip – Playing Safely in Winter

Wilderness First Aid Tip - Playing Safely in Winter

I spoke this morning to my friend, David, who lives just outside of Boston.  He, and the rest of the residents of the Northeast, are bracing for a snow storm that is forecast to blast in from the Great Lakes Region sometime later tomorrow.  But this apparently won’t be just any snow storm.  Forecasters are predicting a “crippling and potentially historic winter storm” that will bring more than 2′ of snow.  Boston has already cancelled school and it is preparing for “one of its worst blizzards of all time.”  I must admit, though, that I am a wee bit jealous of David.  Granted, I am happy enough to let him shovel his driveway and walk, but he and his son are going to have much fun afterwards when the work is done … As will the innumerable New England school kids who will be joining them.

But whether you live in the storm’s path, or just outside of it, we are all probably trying to enjoy this Winter as much as possible so here are a few tips that I hope will keep all of you as safe, and as happy, as possible:

Prevention

  • Cover your head and trunk by wearing a hat and layers of tightly woven fabrics such as wool or synthetics. Cover up exposed areas such as your fingers, cheeks ears and nose.
  • If your clothes get wet when you are in the cold, change into dry clothes as soon as possible.
  • Drink plenty of warm fluids to help your body stay warm, but avoid caffeine and alcohol.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Mild Hypothermia – Shivering and complaining of cold, numbness in fingers and toes, body temperature slightly below normal.
  • Moderate Hypothermia – Shivering, numbness in fingers and toes, lack of coordination and/or speech, confused or unusual behavior, impaired judgment.
  • Severe Hypothermia – Person has stopped shivering and complaining of cold, lack of coordination and/or speech, confused or unusual behavior, impaired judgment, glassy stare, breathing has slowed down or stopped, possible unconsciousness.

What to Do

  • Dial 9-1-1 for severe hypothermia.
  • Treat the person gently and monitor breathing carefully.
  • Get the person away from the cold and into shelter.
  • Remove any wet clothing and gently dry the person.
  • Warm the person by wrapping him or her in blankets or putting on dry clothing.  Cover the head and neck.  Warm the person slowly.
  • If hot water bottles or heating pads are available put them under armpits, around the groin and back of the neck, but being careful not to burn these areas.
  • Do not rub areas that appear to be affected by frostbite.
  • Active re-warming such as hot baths should be used only when the person is far from a medical facility.
Erik Kulick leaning aginst wall with True North badge on blue shirt

About the Author

Erik is the founder of True North Wilderness Survival School. He is a police officer, EMS provider, a Wilderness EMT, and a Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine. He has been featured in national and international media, including CNN, the Associated Press, and Backpacker. To learn more about Erik, visit him on LinkedIn and be sure to follow him on Facebook.

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