Nashville, TN (2009-12-28) The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency advises Tennesseans to take precaution to prevent hypothermia and frostbite as they enjoy hunting, fishing, wildlife watching and other activities outside this winter.
Hypothermia is a life-threatening condition that causes the body’s core temperature to drop. When the temperature dives, some people who can not easily regulate their temperature, such as infants and the elderly, are at increased risk of hypothermia.
Possible symptoms of hypothermia in adults include shivering, confusion, memory loss, drowsiness, exhaustion and slurred speech. Infants who are suffering from hypothermia may appear to have very low energy and bright red, cold skin.
Hypothermia is usually classified into two types, chronic and acute. Chronic hypothermia occurs over a long period of time. It results from exposure to wind and wetness combined with exhaustion. Acute hypothermia is the type waterfowl hunters and fishermen might encounter. Acute hypothermia occurs when one falls into cold water.
Frostbite is another cold weather concern and is especially dangerous because it often happens with little warning. Numbness can occur so quickly that the individual, unaware of being frostbitten, may remain outside, increasing the chance of permanent damage. Older persons, and those with diabetes, are especially vulnerable to frostbite because of impaired circulation.
When outside, persons should frequently check exposed areas of their body for loss of feeling and other danger signs. To prevent frostbite and hypothermia, it is important to dress warmly in windproof clothing and to go indoors when you begin to feel cold. Wearing several layers of loose-fitting clothing traps body heat. Fasten buttons or zippers and tighten drawstrings securely. Gloves and a hat that covers the ears should not be forgotten.
The outer layer of clothing needs to be tightly woven to reduce body-heat loss caused by wind. As the speed of wind increases, it can carry heat away from the body faster. In high wind conditions, cold weather-related health problems are much more likely.
Cold weather puts an extra burden on the heart. Persons with cardiac problems or high blood pressure should follow doctor’s orders before performing any strenuous exercise outside.
Healthy adults should remember that their bodies already are working overtime just to stay warm, so dress appropriately and work slowly when doing heavy outdoor chores. Alcoholic beverages cause the body to lose heat more rapidly. If you are spending time outside, do not ignore shivering, it is an important first sign that the body is losing heat and a signal to quickly return indoors.
TWRA recommends that all Tennesseans should take a first aid class before going into the field to learn how to take care of the first stages of hypothermia, frostbite and other life threatening situations.