This past week I was asked how to teach young women and young men self reliance skills when they complain such classes are boring. I have a few ideas to share but I would love to hear from you. What have you found to be successful in your Wards and Stakes? Please email your ideas to Carolyn@TotallyReady.com

The winter of 2010-2011 was one of the most severe in decades. The cause: La Niña.

La Niña winters cause wetter and colder-than-normal weather in the northern United States and drier and warmer conditions in the southern USA.

Globally, La Niña is characterized by wetter than normal conditions for northern Australia and Indonesia, as well as southeastern Africa and northern Brazil. La Niña conditions may occur in back-to-back years which is exactly what is happening this year and why we have just witnessed a record breaking winter storm on the East Coast. With another harsh winter ahead, now is the time to review some of the common hazards to the health of family members.

Begin at the beginning and prepare before you walk out the door. Wear several layers of loose fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. Coats, hats and gloves or mittens should be water repellent and warm. Mittens are warmer than gloves and should be worn when spending extended time outside. A large percentage of our body heat is lost through the head which means hats should always be warn when going outside or when trying to stay warm in a home without power. Finally, covering your mouth and nose with a scarf will help protect your lungs.

Know the dangers of cold weather:

Frostbite

Common warning signs include a progressive numbness and a loss of sensitivity to touch. The affected area may also tingle or feel as if it is burning. As the damage increases the pain begins to fade or eventually disappear. The skin changes color, it blanches, and may then appear red, and finally white-purple if allowed to freeze.

Frostbite can affect any part of the body, but the tip of the nose, ears, fingertips, and toes are the most likely areas to be affected.

In mild cases, full recovery can be expected with early treatment. Severe cases of frostbite can result in infection, or gangrene – the death of some body tissue due to the lack of blood supply. Amputation is often the result.

Treatment of Frostbite

When you first notice signs of frostbite, get out of the cold immediately when possible, and warm the affected area. Advanced frostbite can result in amputation or even death. Take it seriously.

Do not rub the skin in an effort to get blood flowing back to the area. This causes friction and can destroy already damaged skin and tissue, as well as increase the risk of infection.

To thaw frostbitten skin, immerse the affected part in a bath kept at a constant temperature of 104 to 105 degrees F for an hour or more, about the temperature of a baby bottle. This will cause the blood vessels to dilate and circulation to return to the area.

Rapid warming is painful. Take two ibuprofen, aspirin, or acetaminophen to dull the pain.

Do not smoke or chew tobacco. Nicotine constricts the blood vessels, reduces blood flow to chilled areas, and delays healing. If you do not have access to warm water, stick the frozen body part under an armpit or between your legs.

When the skin has thawed and warming is complete, cover the damaged skin with bandages and warm clothing. As soon as possible, contact your doctor or go to an emergency room.

If there is any chance of refreezing a thawed body part, it is too soon to warm. Freezing, warming and re-freezing the skin again causes much more tissue damage.

Prevention of Frostbite

Before going outside in extremely cold temperature, apply skin moisturizer to the face, hands, and any other body part that may be exposed to the cold. Dress warmly, wear dry clothing, and stay out of the wind. Wear a face mask for extra protection. Wear heavy mittens instead of gloves in cold weather.

When the fingers are together in a mitten they will stay warmer.

Children playing outside should be watched carefully to make sure they do not lose or remove mittens or a hat. Remember that wool clothing and synthetic fibers will keep you warm even when wet so always have wool items in your car kits.

Be extremely careful when pumping gas into your car if the temperature is below freezing. Gasoline on exposed skin evaporates very quickly, lowers the temperature of the skin, and makes it more susceptible to frostbite.

Avoid smoking or drinking before venturing out into extreme cold. Tobacco decreases circulation by constricting blood vessels, and alcohol interferes with the body’s ability to regulate temperature.

Hypothermia

When exposed to cold temperatures, the body begins to lose heat faster than it can be replaced. Extended exposure will eventually deplete your body’s heat. The result is hypothermia. When the body temperature dips too low it affects brain function and coordination. Hypothermia is also dangerous because a person may not know it is happening.

Shivering is your body’s automatic defense against cold temperature in an attempt to warm itself. Constant shivering is a key sign of hypothermia. Other signs of moderate to severe hypothermia include lack of coordination, slurred speech or mumbling, confusion or difficulty remembering, removing warm clothing, drowsiness, and lack of concern for others.

Medical signs include slow and/or shallow breathing, a weak pulse, temperature below 95 degrees, and loss of consciousness even for short periods of time.

Treatment of Hypothermia

If medical care is not available, begin warming the victim by getting them into a warm room or other warm shelter out of the wind and snow. Remove any wet clothing. Warm the body beginning with the core (chest), then head, groin, legs and feet and arms and hands. Warm the body using an electric blanket if available (set on medium or low, not high). If an electric blanket is not available use skin-to-skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, sleeping bags, clothing, towels, or sheets.

Warm beverages can help increase the body temperature – given in small amounts. Never give alcoholic beverages. Do not try to give beverages to an unconscious person.

Once body temperature has increased, keep the person dry and wrapped in a warm blanket, including the head, neck, and feet. Follow up with medical attention as soon as possible. A person with severe hypothermia may be unconscious and may not seem to have a pulse or to be breathing. In this case, get emergency assistance immediately. Even if the victim appears dead, CPR should be administered. CPR should continue while the victim is being warmed, until the victim responds or medical aid becomes available. In some cases, hypothermia victims who appear to be dead can be successfully resuscitated.

Snow Blindness

Snow blindness is the burning of the cornea by ultraviolet B rays (UVB). Snow blindness typically occurs at high altitudes with reflective snow or ice fields, or when looking directly at a solar eclipse.

Artificial sources of UVB can also cause snow blindness. These include tanning beds, a welder’s arc, carbon arcs, photographic flood lamps, lightning, electric sparks, and halogen desk lamps.

Symptoms include tearing, pain in the eyes, headache, redness, swelling of eyelids, the feeling that you have something in your eyes like sand, halos around lights, and temporary loss of vision.


 

These symptoms may not appear until 6-12 hours after the UBV exposure. This is problematic as you may not attribute the symptoms to snow blindness and UBV exposure, and you will not notice the damage as it is occurring, making prevention a necessity whenever you are in conditions which may lead to snow blindness.

Treatment consists of administering an ophthalmic antibiotic solution and of keeping the eyes closed  with patches over the eyes to prevent further exposure. If you are not near a pharmacy, keep eyes closed and covered with a moist cloth until you can get medication. Once you can comfortably open eyes without squinting it is safe to do so. After recovering, wear sunglasses indoors for several hours and anytime you are outdoors. Never rub your eyes as you can cause permanent damage.

Cold compressing will aid in pain reduction and a decrease in swelling. Take over-the-counter pain medications. Vision normally returns after 18 hours. The surface of the cornea usually regenerates in 24 to 48 hours.

Prevention of Snow Blindness

Sunglasses with adequate UVB protection, 90-95%, which wrap around the head. Even though there are minimal rays entering the sides of glasses this can do harm aver the course of several hours.

Wear sun glasses even on a cloudy day as the sun’s rays will still be dangerous especially in snowy conditions. If you wear prescription eye glasses get a wrap style prescription pair of sunglasses before a winter vacation or if you will be doing a lot of work outdoors, even snow shoveling. Use anti fog lens cleaner to eliminate the need to remove sun glasses for clearing.

Remove contact lenses. Avoid looking directly at the snow or ice when you are in an open area. Wear a wide brimmed hat.

Cut small horizontal slits, in a material that can be wrapped around your head, large enough to see but greatly reducing the amount of sun exposure. Use a bandanna, strip of cardboard or leather, or other material that you can secure around your head. Rub dirt, soot or charcoal under the eyes. The black will help to eliminate reflections that magnify sunlight, and will divert the rays away from your eyes.

Limit your time outdoors. Should you become stranded in the snow, take time to close your eyes and rest them for several minutes each hour. It can be easy to stare out the window of a car while awaiting help, or to forget to take a break from the sun if you are hiking out. Assign a member of your group to remind you each hour to take a break.

By following such reasonable precautions, and knowing the hazards in advance – you can save yourself and your family from many of the common hazards of a cold La Niña winter!

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