Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Guidelines for providing first aid during cold weather

Should you need to provide first aid while hiking in cold weather, you’ll want to follow some basic guidelines to ensure that you don’t exacerbate the injury – or put yourself in peril as well.

Among those “rules”:
g Don’t remove your clothing – Though helping an injured person may be easier without gloves on or with a jacket unzipped, this can create problems for you. Gloves taken off might drop into the snow becoming wet, and unlayered protection against the elements exposes you to the cold, as well.
g Perform first aid a warm place – If possible, move the injured person to a place where they can be warm and perform the first aid there. Laying an injured person on the cold ground or removing their clothing in the open only exposes them to the wind and wet.
g Don’t warm by rubbing – This actually can further damage any affected tissue if frostbite occurs. Instead, you want to use the closeness of body warmth or radiant heat to keep a person warm.
g Blankets alone aren’t enough – Use body warmth to keep a person from being cold and wrap the blanket around both of you. If a person has hypothermia, for example, they can’t generate enough heat on their own to rewarm themselves, so a blanket or sleeping bag alone won’t help.
g Loosen constrictive items – Loosening clothing and removing jewelry that restricts circulation is a good idea. Clothing should not be taken off, however, as exposure to the cold can lead to hypothermia.
g Seek medical help immediately – Cold weather injuries such as frostbite and hypothermia require skilled medical professionals working with the patient in a warm, sterile facility. As soon as the injured person is stabilized, get them to a hospital.

Read more about day hiking with children in my Hikes with Tykes guidebooks.