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 Safety - Identifying Cold Weather Hazards

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Very cold temperatures, like very hot ones, can be hazardous to your health. Proper dress and some sensible practices can prevent a lot of the problems associated with cold weather. In addition, knowing the symptoms of danger and how to treat them can keep problems that do occur from becoming disasters.

GENERAL HAZARDS
  • The most common hazard in the cold is frostbite. Your body doesn’t get enough heat and the body tissues freeze. Body parts most often affected by frostbite are the nose, ears, cheeks, fingers and toes.
  • In very bad cases, frostbite can cause permanent tissue damage and loss of movement in the affected body parts. In the worst cases, you could become unconscious and stop breathing. You could even die of heart failure.
  • The other cold hazard is hypothermia. Hypothermia occurs when you’re exposed to cold so long that your body temperature gets dangerously low. Just like frostbite, the worst case results are unconsciousness and death.
  • With both cold hazards, you’re more at risk if you’re older, overweight, or have allergies or poor circulation. Other factors that raise the risk are smoking, drinking and taking medications such as sedatives.


IDENTIFYING HAZARDS
  • It is very important to know the symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia so that you can do something before it is too late.
  • Frostbite can occur from being in a cold area or from touching an object whose temperature is below freezing. In many cases, people are unaware that anything is happening. That’s why you have to be familiar with the symptoms.
  • Frostbite victims usually start by feeling uncomfortably cold, then numb. Sometimes they also get a tingling or aching feeling or a brief pain. The recommended practice is whenever you feel numbness, take action!
  • Hypothermia also can take you by surprise because you can get it even when the temperature is above freezing. Windy conditions, physical exhaustion, and wet clothing can all make you prone to hypothermia.
  • With hypothermia, you first feel cold then pain in the extremities. You’ll shiver, which is how the body tries to raise the temperature.
  • Other symptoms include numbness, stiffness (especially in the neck, arms and legs), poor coordination, drowsiness, slow or irregular breathing and heart rate, slurred speech, cool skin and puffiness in the face.
  • As you can see, many of these symptoms are not unusual and could mean different things. But if you’re exposed to very cold conditions, take them seriously and take steps to relieve them.
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11/11/2013 12:00 AM