Hypothermia is a condition which is triggered when the body’s warming abilities fail or are overwhelmed. This causes the body temperature to drop below 35°C, under the normal average of 37°C.
With the onset of winter, Victorians are exposed to colder, wetter and windier weather conditions. You could find yourself in a situation where hypothermia arises and if the condition is not identified and managed within the early stages, it has the potential to develop into a serious health emergency.
When the body temperature falls initially, early warning signs may include:
As the body temperature continues to drop, signs to look for include:
As the body temperature drops below30°C, warning signs include:
Hypothermia occurs when the body’s warming mechanisms fail and the body temperature drops below 35°C. In order to avoid falling susceptible to hypothermia you must:
Important note: Babies lose heat very easily. A baby may look healthy and happy with the only signs of hypothermia being cold skin, unusual quietness, drowsiness or lack of appetite.
If someone is showing the signs of hypothermia it is imperative you follow the DRSABCD plan immediately. You can refresh your memory of DRSABCD here.
Once you have applied DRSABCD you must follow these steps for hypothermia treatment:
Frostbite is a result of the skin and underlying tissue freezing due to overexposure to below zero temperatures. It is a progressive injury.
Frostbite is caused by overexposure to below zero temperatures. If an environment with below zero temperatures includes heavy winds and exposure to water, the likelihood of someone suffering from frostbite rises.
There are two types of frostbite; Superficial Frostbite and Deep Frostbite.
With Superficial Frostbite the skin can still move in relation to the underlying tissue. It is the full thickness of the skin that is frozen, not the tissue beneath.
With Deep Frostbite the skin cannot move as a result of the underlying tissue being frozen. This means both the full thickness of the skin and tissues underneath are frozen. In some cases the skin may be frozen to the bone.
A less serious condition caused by cold temperatures is Frostnip. Frostnip is a condition in which only the top layer of the skin is frozen and the person has full mobility of the affected area.
If someone is showing the signs of Superficial Frostbite like any other First Aid event you must follow the DRSABCD plan. You can refresh your memory of DRSABCD here.
Once you have applied DRSABCD you must follow these steps:
If someone is displaying signs of Deep Frostbite you must follow the DRSABCD plan instantly. Once you have applied DRSABCD you must follow these steps:
If medical assistance is not readily available, thaw the frozen area as instructed:
At the beginning of winter people are often unprepared for the harsh weather conditions approaching. When leaving the house ensure you have taken all the preventative measures listed above to avoid falling susceptible to hypothermia or frostbite.
It’s important you acknowledge the change of seasons and are prepared for cold, wet and windy weather conditions at all times. Hypothermia and frostbite can often be avoided, don’t risk the loss of fingers, toes or even limbs because you didn’t prepare for harsh weather conditions.
Remember, if you do get Frostbite, the correct treatment and management is critical to the survival of the areas impacted. Always follow advice recommended in St John First Aid Training.