Prepare and Prevent Against Cold Illnesses

December 20, 2019
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Employees working in winter weather become susceptible to cold-related illnesses as temperatures start to drop and wind chill picks up. These cold-related conditions can be avoidable if you take precautionary measures and monitor employees as they perform their outdoor tasks. Share the tips below with your employees to help prevent against a cold-related illness this winter, and a workers' compensation claim!

Hypothermia & Frostbite

Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed prevention against cold illnesses. Recognizing the early signs of some of the most common cold illnesses and their first aid treatments can also help to prevent a serious injury. Below are the symptoms and first aid treatments of two common cold-related illnesses: Frost Bite and Hypothermia.

*If a person's temperature is below 95°F, get medical attention immediately

Frost Bite

Frostbite occurs in a cold environment when layers of skin tissue freeze. Frostbite can be caused by exposure to severe cold or contact with extremely cold objects.

Symptoms:

  • Cold, tingling, stinging or aching feeling in the frostbitten area, followed by numbness
  • Skin color turns red, then purple, then white or very pale skin, cold to the touch
  • Hard or blistering skin in severe cases

First Aid:

  1. Call 911
  2. DO NOT rub the area
  3. Wrap in soft cloth
  4. If help is delayed, immerse in warm, not hot, water
  5. Don't pour water directly on the affected area because it will warm the tissue too fast. Warming should take about 25-40 minutes
  6. Do not warm the skin if there is a chance of refreezing. Severe tissue damage can occur

Hypothermia

Hypothermia occurs in a cold environment when body heat is being lost faster than it is being replaced. There are different degrees of hypothermia, ranging from mild to severe.

Mild Hypothermia Symptoms:

  • Shivering
  • Lack of coordination,
  • stumbling, fumbling hands
  • Slurred speech
  • Pale, cold skin

Mild Hypothermia First Aid:

  1. Move to warm area
  2. Stay active
  3. Remove wet clothes and replace with dry clothes or blankets, cover the head
  4. Drink warm (not hot) sugary drinks such as sports drinks.
  5. Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol

Moderate Hypothermia Symptoms:

  • Shivering stops
  • Mental confusion or impairment
  • Reduced breathing and/or heart rate
  • Unable to walk or stand
  • Confused and irrational

Moderate Hypothermia First Aid:

  1. Move to warm area
  2. Stay active
  3. Remove wet clothes and replace with dry clothes or blankets, cover the head
  4. Drink warm (not hot) sugary drinks such as sports drinks.
  5. Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol
  6. Call 911
  7. Cover all extremities completely
  8. Place warm objects, such as hot packs or water bottles on the victim's head, neck, chest, and groin

Severe Hypothermia Symptoms:

  • Severe muscle stiffness
  • Very sleepy or unconscious
  • Extremely cold skin
  • Irregular or difficult to find a pulse

Severe Hypothermia First Aid:

  1. Call 911
  2. Handle the victim carefully. Sudden movement or rough handling can upset heart rhythms
  3. Do not attempt to re-warm - the victim should receive treatment in a hospital