Soldiers are likely to perform missions
in harsh conditions such as cold or wet environments that can lead to injuries. Environmental
and personal factors may cause cold stress, or excessive heat loss in parts
or throughout the entire body, even in warmer climates. Cold stress-related injuries include hypothermia, freezing injuries like frostbite,
nonfreezing injuries from wet exposure, like chilblains and trench foot. Other cold-weather injuries include: dehydration, snow-blindness and sunburn, carbon monoxide poisoning from improperly vented heaters. sprains, strains, and
fractures from falling on ice. Cold injuries appear to be higher among
women, African Americans, enlisted Service members,
and personnel under 20 years old. The following pre-existing conditions will increase risk of a cold injury: a prior cold injury, certain medical conditions like anemia or
Raynaud’s syndrome, and medications, such as antidepressants. To avoid injuries, protect yourself with proper clothing and stay as dry and warm as possible. You can do this by wearing multiple
layers of loose clothing. Loose clothing increases insulation and reduces heat loss.
Be prepared to add or remove layers according to the conditions
and your activity level. Change your clothing, socks, gloves, or boots if they become wet –
this includes any sweaty items. Use gloves when handling equipment, metal
objects, or liquids and avoid wearing steel-toed boots in freezing conditions.
Remember COLD. C-O-L-D. Keep it CLEAN Avoid OVERHEATING
Wear LOOSE LAYERS Keep clothing DRY. COLD. Snow blindness
and sunburn are caused by the reflection of the sun’s UV rays from snow and ice.
These conditions are painful, so don’t wait until you
experience discomfort to take action. Protect your eyes and skin. Wear
UV-protective glasses, lip balm, and sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher.
Proper nutrition and hydration are important in cold climates. Increase calorie consumption when operating in cold weather. Lack of nutrients can cause low blood sugar which impairs shivering – a primary heat-making mechanism in cold conditions.
Hydration also affects the body’s ability to maintain thermal balance.
Drink more fluids, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Water, juice and sports drinks can all help to rehydrate. Warm liquids such as tea and coffee
can also help warm the body. Never eat snow or ice.
Monitor urine color and volume. Lightly colored urine indicates optimal hydration.
Avoid alcohol and tobacco. Alcohol causes the blood vessels to dilate, which increases heat loss. The nicotine in tobacco products constricts the blood vessels and reduces blood
flow to the skin increasing the risk of frostbite. Winter weather can be unpredictable,
so monitor the weather forecast, wind speed, air temperature, wetness, and
the wind chill index to determine the significance of cold exposure. Snow and ice increase
the risk of slip and fall injuries. Consider wearing anti-slip shoes, but use caution when removing them indoors.
Check your surroundings for other cold weather hazards such as carbon
dioxide from poorly ventilated stoves or heaters. Know the risk factors to protect yourself from becoming a cold injury-casualty. Dressing
properly and maintaining your hydration are the first steps to staying safe
in cold conditions. Always look after your battle buddy and ensure that these safety standards are met. For more information on cold weather injuries, check out the additional resources available on the APHC website.