Dress warmly, Parkland Ambulance warns

By James Bowler
November 10, 2013 - 1:17pm Updated: November 10, 2013 - 5:01pm

Frigid temperatures are now following the two heavy snowfalls that hit Prince Albert this past week.

Environment Canada has forecasted the temperature dipping as low as minus 25 Sunday and hovering around the minus 10 mark on Monday.

With the colder temperatures, anyone who goes outside into the cold is advised to remember to cover up.

Lyle Karasiuk, director of communications for Parkland Ambulance, said that dressing in layers is best for those who really need to go outside.

“The simple message is if you don’t have to venture out, don’t venture out on a cold day like today, but if you do have to venture out please make sure that you’re dressed for the weather,” said Karasiuk. “That means first of all an insulating later that’s against your skin, so probably some long underwear and maybe a cotton t-shirt.”

He added wearing something that will absorb heat and insulate your body like a thick shirt, and the outer layer should be wind and moisture proof to keep your body dry.

Karasiuk said the most important thing to be concerned about after being out in the cold for a while is frostbite.
“If you’re not dressed for the weather your fingers are going to start to get cold, they’re going to turn red, and they’re going to start to hurt,” said Karasiuk.

“As the skin freezes they will start to develop a waxy white appearance, and if not addressed, they will just become hard and very solid with very dark black-blue blotches. When you’ve got the black-blue blotches and the frozen skin you really have a serious problem and you need to simply get them warm fast.”

Karasiuk added that if you’re not able to get medical attention immediately there is actually a different to deal with the issue.

“The problem is out in the back bush there is nowhere (to warm them up), and secondly, you have to get back to somewhere permanently warm,” said Karasiuk. “If you can’t warm them up, leave them frozen until you can get somewhere to warm them up. It is very painful to thaw frozen tissue and therefore usually it’s done in a health care facility such as your hospital emergency room.”

He said that if you can get to a warm place, immediately put the frozen extremity in a warm bath until the colour and feeling returns.

Another issue that hunters and travelers might face in the cold is hypothermia. And, it is not something that you can only get when falling in freezing cold water.

“You can get hypothermia from being wet and getting cold, you can get hypothermia from simply just being cold and not properly dressed,” said Karasiuk. “If you happen to be outside, such as many of our folks who work in construction, or city workers, or people who simply want to enjoy the outdoors, dress warmly, dress appropriately, take those frequent warm breaks indoors.”

Karasiuk said there are some very telling signs when someone has hypothermia.

“You will notice a change in their behaviour, they may act a little bit different, just maybe acting like they are drunk,” said Karasiuk. “They have strange behaviour which will progressively get more and more lethargic and tired to the point where simply you will just go unconscious from hypothermia.”

He added when you get to extreme cases of hypothermia, your brain may begin to believe you’re warm.

“Our brain sort of places tricks on us to think in the latter stages of hypothermia, we really are warm,” said Karasiuk. “We’ve heard these strange stories where searchers have found people froze to death out in the wilderness, and they’ve shed clothes off.”

Karasiuk said the most important thing is making sure your exposed skin is covered when venturing out into windy cold temperatures.

“Exposed skin can freeze in just a couple of minutes,” said Karasiuk. “It’s all about dressing warm.”

Anyone who goes out hunting or hiking this winter is advised to take someone along or let someone know where they are going.

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On Twitter: @journalistjim

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