Recognizing the danger of winter's bitter cold

D. Gary Davis
Posted 1/9/18

The last couple of weeks, and even the beginning of this week, have been a reminder that winter weather still has the capability to disrupt our lives, even as it did generations ago. Many ways of …

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Recognizing the danger of winter's bitter cold


The last couple of weeks, and even the beginning of this week, have been a reminder that winter weather still has the capability to disrupt our lives, even as it did generations ago.

Many ways of coping may have changed, but the possibly devastating effects of prolonged exposure to extreme cold temperatures are still worth knowing, so that we might all stay better prepared.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, cold stress can occur when the body is unable to warm itself and this can eventually lead to tissue damage and possible death, if not corrected.

Four factors that may contribute to cold stress are 1) cold air temperatures; 2) extreme wind-chill values; 3) dampness in the air; and 4) contact with cold water or surfaces.

A cold environment forces one’s entire body to work harder to maintain its temperature. Cold air, water and snow all draw heat from the body. OSHA also points out that while below-freezing temperatures can bring about cold stress problems, this may also occur with much higher temperatures, even in the 50s, when coupled with rain and wind.

Hypothermia is the loss of body heat from exposure to cold conditions. It is important to remember that if your clothing becomes wet from sweat, high humidity or working in a damp environment, the symptoms of hypothermia can occur more quickly.

The signs of hypothermia are uncontrollable shivering, lips or fingers becoming blue, and the victim experiencing poor coordination. Confusion and disorientation may also accompany a slowing of the heart rate. Your breathing may also become slowed and some may also experience slurred speech. These symptoms should be evaluated and treated by medical professionals.

While waiting upon medical help to arrive, the following first-aid actions are advised: Remove the person from the cold environment to a warm shelter and remove wet clothing, then wrap the affected person in dry, but not heated, blankets. Warm the “core” first and remember that their limbs should be warmed last, if possible. Do not place the affected person in front of a hot fire or apply heated blankets or pads.

These procedures may not only help you, but possibly a family member if they were ever to be found in need of hypothermia first aid.

Many of us don't often consider those whose professions or careers require that they work outside. Our area's first responders, law enforcement, fire, rescue, emergency medical, public works and various industries across Bradley County have positions that require their employees to be exposed to extreme heat in the summer, and extreme cold in the winter.

Each of these individuals is taught to recognize their limits and how best to treat themselves or a co-worker, if the need arises for first-aid care.

I have mentioned many times the brave men and women who help keep us all protected, and help us when we are injured or sick. Their work schedules are complex and their continued service is both needed, of course, as well as greatly appreciated.

If you cross paths with any of these individuals during your day, please offer them a heartfelt "thank  you" for doing an impeccable job in all kinds of weather and at all times of the day or night.

Thank you and may we each do our best to protect ourselves, our families and our friends during this season of cold, wintry weather

This helpful attitude, and the process of actually caring for others, is yet another reason that Bradley County is ... Tennessee at its best!


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