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It has been just over a week since Snowmageddon hit the east coast. The northeast was struck especially hard. We had a “bomb cyclone” snow storm followed by blistering cold from a “polar vortex”. Temperatures were hovering in the single digits. The wind chill brought us well below zero for days. The time was ripe for cold weather injuries.
Plus, there were half-frozen waves flooding downtown Boston and surrounding towns. There was tons of property damage, and people trapped in their vehicles. Luckily, there were no major injuries from the flooding.
Winter brings its own special set of common injuries. Here is what you need to know to recognize and prevent a serious, cold-related injury.
Cold Weather Injuries
Think of exposure to cold in a similar way as to exposure to the sun. You can only take so much until eventually, the skin will burn (think freezer burn) and blister.
There are a number of common injuries that emergency rooms see each year when the temperature drops. These include:
- Trench foot
- Heart attacks
These can be broken down into three types: non-frozen injuries, frozen injuries, and cardiovascular injuries.
Two common cold weather injuries are chilblains and trench foot. Both occur in cold, wet conditions and affect the extremities. Because moisture can wick away heat from the body, you can end up with chilblains or trench foot even in 60°F weather.
You come in from the cold and wet, knowing that you need to warm up. You wrap up in blankets, snuggle up to a wood stove or heater, and you start to feel better. Next thing you know, you have blisters forming on your extremities. This is chilblains.
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