What is Extreme Weather?
History is filled with examples of the significant impact of cold and how to survive extreme weather conditions. Prevention of cold injuries is the responsibility of all people at all levels. During cold and extreme weather conditions – the environment can directly affect an individual’s health and performance. Cold can lower body temperature, resulting in cold injuries and impaired performance. Moreover, cold weather is often accompanied by wind, rain, snow, and ice, which can worsen the effects of the cold, as well as contribute to injury and performance impairments in and of themselves.
Food and water problems are common during cold weather since requirements are high and supply is difficult. Cold weather contributes to increased disease and nonbattle injury since maintaining proper field sanitation and personal hygiene is difficult, sick and injured individuals are susceptible to cold injuries, and the use of indoor stoves may lead to burns or suffocation. Operational problems often arise in cold and extreme weather conditions. Heavy clothing restricts movements, equipment often malfunctions, travel can be difficult, and fogging and freezing of eyepieces and windows occur frequently.
Viewing cold as a challenge to be overcome is the key to the positive attitude required to successfully complete the mission of getting yourself out of the freezing weather and indoors before suffering from hypothermia or other impairing effects generally brought on by the cold weather. This will also be very educational information about the cold in general and will help to prepare you for the situation of being stuck out in the freezing weather and train you to survive extreme weather conditions.
How to Sustain Health in Cold Conditions:
Heat flows from places with high temperatures to those with lower temperatures. When a person is surrounded by air or water having a lower temperature than body temperature, your body will lose heat. If heat escapes faster than the body produces heat, body temperature will fall. Normal body temperature is 98.6 Fahrenheit, and if body temperature falls much below this, performance decrements and cold injuries can result.
How Cold Affects the Body:
- The colder the surrounding temperature is, the greater the potential for body heat to escape. A good hat is a great way to battle lost heat through your head. When the skin is exposed to cold, the brain signals the blood vessels in the skin to tighten, and blood flow to the skin decreases. This is the body’s attempt to prevent heat inside the body from being carried to the skin where it will be lost. However, due to reduced blood flow to the skin, the skin temperature falls dramatically.
- When you have to survive extreme weather for more than an hour, cooling of the skin and reduced blood flow to the hands leads to blunted sensations of touch and pain and loss of dexterity and agility. This can impair the ability to perform manual tasks and lead to more severe cold injuries, since symptoms may go unnoticed.
- Skin freezes at about 28 degrees Fahrenheit. As frostbite develops, the skin will become numb and turn to a grey or waxy-white color. The area will be cold to the touch and may feel stiff or woody. With frostbite, ice crystal formation and lack of blood flow to the frozen area damages the tissues. After thawing, swelling may occur, worsening the injury. For example, if you get frostbite on your foot, your entire foot may look purple and you may think you have broken every bone in your foot. This is a great visual example of what you can expect when frostbite takes over different sections of your body.
FIRST AID FOR FROSTBITE:
- PREVENT FURTHER EXPOSURE
- REMOVE WET, CONSTRICTIVE CLOTHING
- REWARM GRADUALLY BY DIRECT SKIN-TO-SKIN CONTACT BETWEEN INJURED AREA AND NONINJURED SKIN OF THE VICTIM OR A BUDDY
- EVACUATE FOR MEDICAL TREATMENT (FOOT INJURIES BY LITTER)
- DO NOT ALLOW INJURY TO REFREEZE DURING EVACUATION
- DO NOT REWARM A FROSTBITE INJURY IF IT COULD REFREEZE DURING EVACUATION; 2) DO NOT REWARM FROSTBITTEN FEET IF VICTIM MUST WALK FOR MEDICAL TREATMENT; 3) DO NOT REWARM INJURY OVER OPEN FLAME.
- Body temperature falls when the body cannot produce heat as fast as it is being lost. Hypothermia is a life-threatening condition in which deep-body temperature falls below 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Generally, the deep-body temperature will not fall until after many hours of continuous exposure to cold air, if the individual is healthy, physically active and reasonably dressed.
- Hypothermia can occur rapidly during cold-water immersion (one hour or less when the water temperature is below 45 degrees Fahrenheit). Because water has a tremendous capacity to drain heat from the body, immersion in water considered e.ven slightly cool, say 60o F, can cause hypothermia, if the immersion is prolonged for several hours.
- Hypothermia is a medical emergency. Untreated, it results in death. Hypothermia may be difficult to recognize in its early stages of development. Things to watch for include unusually withdrawn or bizarre behavior, irritability, confusion, slowed or slurred speech, altered vision, uncoordinated movements, and unconsciousness. Even mild hypothermia can cause victims to make poor decisions or act drunk (e.g., removing clothing when it is clearly inappropriate).
- Hypothermia victims may show no heartbeat, breathing or response to touch or pain when in fact they are not really dead. Sometimes, the heartbeat and breathing of hypothermia victims will be so faint that it can go undetected. If hypothermia has resulted from submersion in cold water, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) should be initiated without delay. However, when hypothermia victims are found on land, it is important to take a little extra time searching for vital signs to determine whether CPR is really required. Hypothermia victims should be treated as gently as possible during treatment and evacuation since the function of the heart can be seriously impaired in hypothermia victims. Rough handling can cause life-threatening disruptions in heart rate.
FIRST AID FOR HYPOTHERMIA:
- PREVENT FURTHER COLD EXPOSURE
- REMOVE WET CLOTHING
- INITIATE CPR, ONLY IF REQUIRED
- REWARM BY COVERING WITH BLANKETS, SLEEPING BAGS AND WITH BODY-TO-BODY CONTACT
- HANDLE GENTLY DURING TREATMENT AND EVACUATION
Minimizing Effects of Cold on the Body:
Cold-weather clothing systems are designed to change with the wearer’s needs. Cold-weather clothing protection is based on the principles of insulation, layering, and ventilation. By understanding these principles, a person can vary their clothing to regulate protection and stay comfortable.
Wearing clothing ensembles in multiple layers allows the wearer to remove or add clothes to adjust the insulation to changes in environment or workload as well as to the individual’s own needs and preferences. Wearing layered clothing is especially important for soldiers whose duties require them to frequently move in and out of heated shelters, or to periodically undertake vigorous physical activity.
Physically active people can sweat even in extremely cold weather. Sweat will be able to evaporate if clothing allows ventilation. Proper clothing will be made of a material that water vapor can pass through, and will allow the wearer to unzip and open the clothing periodically to increase ventilation. If sweat can not evaporate, it will accumulate, wet the clothing, compromising insulation. Sweat evaporation will be compromised when clothing is dirty.
When the standard light-duty leather glove provides inadequate protection, (i.e. air temperature below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, or more than 30 minutes of inactive exposure anticipated) trigger finger or Extreme Cold Weather mittens and liners can be worn.
First Aid for Overexposure to Sun and Wind:
- PREVENT FURTHER EXPOSURE.
- TREAT MILD SUNBURN, WINDBURN, AND CHAPPING WITH MOISTURIZING LOTIONS, AND ASPIRIN OR TYLENOL, BUT EVACUATE FOR MEDICAL TREATMENT IF LARGE AREAS OF SKIN ARE INJURED OR BLISTERED.
- FOR SNOW BLINDNESS, HAVE VICTIM REST IN DARK AREA WITH EYES COVERED WITH COOL, WET BANDAGES UNTIL EVACUATED.
Food and Water During Extreme Cold Situations:
Although warm clothing and proper shelter are the first line of defense in protecting against the effects of cold weather, adequate food and water consumption are next in importance. Food and water requirements of people are high during cold-weather operations and the effects of dehydration and inadequate diet are as serious as in hot climates.
People can often become dehydrated during cold weather situations. Dehydration reduces work capacity, appetite, alertness, and can lead to other medical problems such as constipation, kidney disorders, and urinary infections. The body’s requirement for hydration from water is even higher in extreme weather conditions.
A general recommendation for people participating in cold-weather operations is to consume about a half a quart of water with breakfast, lunch, dinner and before going to sleep at night, with an additional half quart drunk every hour during the workday (more if the work is strenuous enough to cause the individual to sweat) for a total of at least 5-6 quarts per day.
You should also note that the lighter the color of your urine, the more hydrated your body is. So, if you see dark urine – drink an above-average amount of water to help compensate for the dehydration in your body. This will help you to survive extreme weather and cold condition.
SUSTAINING PERFORMANCE DURING COLD WEATHER:
Clothing and equipment malfunctions occur more often during cold weather. Simply wearing bulky cold-weather clothing restricts peripheral vision, movement, coordination, and manual dexterity. In combination, these effects can adversely impact on the ability of soldiers to satisfactorily perform various aspects of their tasks.
Moisture condensation is a common source of problems during cold-weather operations. Moisture from sweat can become trapped in clothing or sleeping bags. Condensation accumulates inside tents when they are occupied. This adds to the weight and makes it more difficult to pack and move them later. Cold eyeglasses, goggles, and eyepiece sights fog over easily when warm moist breath passes over them or when the wearer comes in from cold to warmed areas. If this condensation freezes, it is difficult to remove.
Heated air blown over contaminated items removes chemical agents by evaporation. When decontamination solutions and/or water are frozen or not available, decontamination of vehicles and equipment can be accomplished using high-temperature vehicle exhaust or forced air heaters. This decontamination method should only be performed outdoors. The use of heated air will increase the contamination threat downwind.
RECAP OF KEY POINTS DURING COLD-WEATHER AND EXTREME CONDITIONS:
- EAT AND DRINK MORE FOOD AND WATER THAN NORMAL.
- BE PREPARED FOR SUDDEN WEATHER CHANGES.
- AVOID COLD INJURIES BY USING A BUDDY SYSTEM AND FREQUENT SELF CHECKS ESPECIALLY WHEN INDIVIDUALS ARE NOT ACTIVE OR THEIR DUTIES REQUIRE THEM TO REMOVE THEIR GLOVES.
- IMMEDIATELY TREAT PERSONS SHOWING ANY SIGN/SYMPTOM OF COLD INJURY.
- SICK, INJURED, AND WOUNDED INDIVIDUALS ARE VERY SUSCEPTIBLE TO COLD INJURIES.
- EACH SOLDIER SHOULD CARRY AN INDIVIDUAL COLD-WEATHER SURVIVAL KIT AT ALL THE TIME.
- DRIVERS AND PASSENGERS SHOULD ALWAYS HAVE A SLEEPING BAG AND EXTRA COLD-WEATHER CLOTHING WHEN TRAVELING BY VEHICLE AWAY FROM THE UNIT BIVOUAC LOCATION.
In conclusion, when forced to survive extreme weather conditions can lead you to many terrible things that the body may go through. It’s imperative that everyone understands these harmful effects and knows how to act on each one. This is a very dangerous situation and should be treated as so. I hope you learned something here today and look forward to posting more educational information about this soon. Thanks for reading!