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Working in Extreme Cold Conditions: Tips to Prevent Hypothermia

Working in Extreme Cold Conditions: Tips to Prevent Hypothermia

From blizzards to snow and ice, we don’t seem to catch much of a break from extreme winter weather conditions in Kansas City during the winter months. Especially when you add dangerously cold temperatures and wind chills to that list of winter weather woes that can put people and animals at risk for hypothermia and frostbite.

Hypothermia is a condition where the body's core temperature drops to a dangerous level, making us very ill; it can even lead to death. This can easily happen when the body is wet and exposed to frigid temperatures. When unprotected skin is exposed to these low temperatures, it also increases the risk of frostbite.

RELATED: How To Prepare Your Business for Winter Weather >>

Axcet HR Solutions Safety and Health Consultant Randy Clayton advises employers to be aware of forecasted dangerous weather conditions, know the signs of hypothermia and have a thorough understanding of appropriate treatment. Worker safety should always be a top concern, and as such, employers should implement employee cold weather health and safety programs and training sessions.

RELATED: Can Employers Require Attendance During Inclement Weather? >>

Signs of Hypothermia

Symptoms of MILD hypothermia include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fumbling fingers; trouble with the use of hands
  • A sense of discomfort or pain

If you think you’re experiencing MILD hypothermia, you should get out of the cold, drink warm fluids and get into warm clothes.

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Symptoms of MODERATE/SEVERE hypothermia include:

  • Dilated pupils.
  • Confusion.
  • Shallow breathing.
  • Blue or clammy skin.
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of consciousness.

If you think you, or someone around you, is experiencing MODERATE/SEVERE hypothermia, call 911 immediately. Hypothermia is a medical emergency where the body is unable to warm itself. Additionally, remove wet clothing and wrap up in warm blankets. Remember to never actively warm up a victim of MODERATE/SEVERE hypothermia through the use of hot water bottles, hairdryers, etc., as this can cause greater problems. Warm, not hot, liquids can be consumed. Do not consume alcoholic beverages.

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How To Avoid Hypothermia

Avoiding Hypothermia is your best bet. That said, if you have to go outside, remember to:

  •  Make sure all of your skin is covered. This includes wearing hats, gloves, coats, scarves and warm footwear in layers.

  •  Eat fruit and or consume sweet warm drinks. Eating is important, as it fuels your body to help keep it warm.

  • Do not overexert yourself causing perspiration.

  • Stay as dry as possible.

  • Plan ahead; ensure your car has emergency supplies and plenty of gas.

Following these guidelines will help you retain your body heat, reducing the risk of frostbite and hypothermia. Stay warm out there!

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Written by Randy Clayton