First Aid Information
Closed Head Injury
First On Scene
Winter Worries, It ain't just the cold
by Buck Tilton
DANGER: NAEGLERIA INFESTATION. DIP AND DIE.
The metal sign was embedded in the snow just before the forest trail opened into a string
of hot, watery pearls. After our ski in to these natural warm springs,
with wine chilled by the icy breezes drifting around us, the warning could
have been a massive frustration. Once the single-celled amoeba, Naegleria
Fowleri, sets up housekeeping in a human brain, death usually occurs in
three to six days. Cause of demise: Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis.
PAM is nobody to fool around with, but knowledge allowed us the soak we
Hard exercise on a
cold day, the kind of workout that requires aggressive panting, might
lead to a second winter worry: "frozen lung." Temps must be low, usually
below zero Fahrenheit. No tissue actually freezes, but severe bronchial
irritation results from sucking down very
A third worrisome
phenomenon, which can appear with temperatures as high 60 degrees F, is
chilblains. They aren't mentioned much in the United States, but approximately
one in every ten residents of England have experienced these red, itchy
skin lesions. When skin is kept cool
If the wet and cold
are isolated in boots, another non-freezing problem, immersion foot, might
develop. Also called "trench foot," prolonged exposure to the wet and
cold leads to lack of circulation in the feet. Owners of these feet complain
of numbness, tingling pain, and itching. The feet look white or mottled
in disgusting shades of blue, gray, and burgundy. On rewarming the pain
does much more than tingle, and swelling and redness occur. Severe cases
crack the skin and
Failure to wear sunglasses that keep all the ultraviolet light out, may lead to a fifth problem, snowblindness (sunburned eyes). There is seldom any sensation on the surface of the eye until the damage of too-much-sun is done. It can occur in as little as one hour. Usually six to twelve hours pass before the eye feels painful and dry and gritty. It hurts very much to move or open the eye--so don't do it. Rinse the eye with cold water, and patch it closed. The problem should resolve in 24-to-48 hours with no permanent damage. If it doesn't, or if the pain is unbearable, see a physician.
The winter sun is closer to the earth than the summer sun, but, because it's lower in the sky, the radiation is less intense. This healthier aspect of winter exposure is counterbalanced by the fact that snow and ice are very efficient reflectors of sunlight, bouncing 80-to-85% back on the outdoor enthusiast. Reflected light helps create snowblindness and another problem, "sun poisoning", an allergic reaction to ultraviolet light, primarily UVA. Allergies are specific to certain susceptible people, and this one looks like poison ivy, or, sometimes, eczema. Intense itching usually starts 24 - 48 hours after exposure. Treatment for most allergies is limited to time, anti-itch measures (topical hydrocortizone and anti-histamines), and eliminating contact with the allergy-producing agent. Severe reactions often benefit from prescription drugs that a doctor must suggest. Prevention is offered by clothing and sunscreens that block UVA and UVB radiation. Of particular efficacy are sunscreens that contain titanium dioxide.
As the icy tendrils
of winter swirled around his house in 1862, Maurice Raynaud took pen in
frigid hand to first scratch out the description that would bear his name.
Raynaud's syndrome results from intermittent spasms in the peripheral
vessels of fingers or toes, and occasionally ears and nose. Color changes
accompany this painful response to cold - usually white, often red or
blue. Nobody knows what causes Raynaud's syndrome, but thousands suffer
with the slightest drop in temperature.