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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Urban Survival Skills – Recognizing and Treating Cold Injuries

The ability to recognize and treat cold injuries can often mean life or death for you or anyone who is in your survival group. Obvious the best way to avoid having to deal with cold injuries is to prevent them from happening by implementing precautions. One of the best methods for this is to utilize the buddy team concept where everyone is responsible for one other.

One of the lesser injuries incurred during cold or extreme cold weather is dehydration because thirst is reduced during cold weather. Dehydration can cause constipation because people may eat more in the cold weather as they are burning more calories to produce body heat. A preventive measure would be using the mandatory drink rule where every so often, say 30 minutes, everyone drinks X amount of water, say 4-6 ounces.

Frostbite is a common cold injury resulting from frozen skin, usually digits such as feet, hands or sometimes ears. Mild frostbite is where only the skin that takes on a whitish pallor and will be cold to the touch. Severe frostbite is where the skin freezes to a deeper level below the skin. The skin will be frozen. Symptoms of frostbite include loss of feeling usually in your hands, feet, nose and ears. You may experience “tingling” before you actually lose feeling. Tingling would indicate a pre-frostbite condition.

Preventive measures are, of course, wearing adequate clothing including gloves, suitable footgear and watch caps or coverings for your ears. A scarf around your mouth and nose would also be good for extreme cold weather. Moderate movement in extreme cold, providing adequate footgear will usually prevent cold injuries associated with frostbite.

Treatment of frostbite includes re-warming a mild frostbite, use your hands or mittens to other dry pieces of cloth to warm your face and ears. Place your hands under your armpits. Place your feet next to your buddy’s stomach. A severe frostbite injury, if thawed and refrozen, will cause more damage to the skin and circulation and that patient would have to be hospitalized soon.

Hypothermia is the more dangerous cold injury and is caused by the lowering of the body temperature at a rate faster than the body can produce heat. Causes of hypothermia may be significant exposure, sudden soaking from water such as falling into a river or being doused with other liquids.

The initial symptom is shivering. This shivering may progress to the point that it is uncontrollable and interferes with an individual’s ability to care for themselves. This begins when the body’s core temperature falls to about 96 degrees F. When the body core temperature further falls to 95 to 90 degrees F , incoherency and irrational behavior may occur. A core body temperature of 90 to 86 degrees F will usually result in muscle spasms, rigidity, and unconsciousness. A body core temperature below 77 degrees F results in death.

Without the ability to access professional medical help using conventional medical treatments such as warm water baths or enemas, the Urban Survivor will have to resort to wrapping the victim in sleeping bags and heavy clothing for insulation. Warm sweet liquids such as cocoa would be good, but be careful of warming too fast as it can cause circulation and even heart problems.

Again, the best way to prevent cold injuries is to be prepared for it with adequate clothing and planning. Your Survival Bug Out Bag should have the small sleeping bag, a tarp or ground cloth and fire making devices so there will be no excuse not being able to treat cold injuries is your clothing, planning or actions failure you.