As winter advances, one of the biggest challenges is keeping warm. It is important to dress properly when outside to prevent frostbite. Also, when heating rooms with bukharis, it is essential to ensure proper ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
How to avoid frostbite
Factors that contribute to frostbite include extreme cold, wet clothes, wind chill and poor circulation.
Wear several layers of clothing as this provides insulation and keeps the body temperature from dropping.
Start with a thin, insulating layer like polyester, nylon or silk next to the skin. Avoid cotton because it absorbs sweat and turns cold next to the skin. Wool, fleece or polyester are good fabrics for a second layer. If you are staying out for long periods at a time, finish with a third waterproof, wind-resistant layer. Leather can work as a wind-resistant layer, but sometimes it isn’t waterproof. Make sure also to wear layers on your legs.
Feet should be covered with wool socks and water-resistant insulated boots. Putting plastic bags around your feet to ensure dryness is another option. Also cover your head, neck and hands.
Symptoms of frostbite
Initially, there may be itching and pain. The skin develops white and yellow patches and becomes numb. If freezing continues, the skin may harden and blisters may appear. Deep frostbite results in purplish blisters which turn black and are generally blood-filled. It could result in fingers and toes being amputated if the area becomes infected with gangrene. Skin destroyed by frostbite is completely dark, as if burnt. If it goes untreated, fingers and toes may even fall off.
How to treat frostbiteGet the patient into a warm, not hot, environment and into dry clothes. Give the person a warm drink. Immerse frozen areas in room temperature water. If warm water is not available, wrap gently in warm blankets or place the frostbitten fingers or toes against warm, bare skin. Do not use direct heat and do not rub the skin to increase blood flow. Do not thaw the area if there is a risk of refreezing, as this may cause severe tissue damage. Re-warming will be accompanied with a burning sensation. Skin may blister and swell and may turn red, blue, or purple. When skin is pink and no longer numb, the area is thawed. Apply sterile dressing to the area, placing it between fingers and toes if they are affected. Try not to disturb any blisters. Always take the affected person to a qualified doctor or to a hospital as soon as possible.
Carbon monoxide poisoning
Most families burn wood or coal to heat their rooms. But in badly ventilated spaces, burning wood or coal can create deadly gas.
When fuel is burnt, it uses up oxygen and releases carbon dioxide. However, in poorly ventilated rooms the fuel is prevented from burning properly and starts releasing carbon monoxide (CO) gas, which is poisonous. Carbon monoxide is particularly dangerous because it is colourless and odourless, thus cannot be easily noticed.
Symptoms of CO poisoning
Early symptoms of CO poisoning are headaches, nausea and fatigue. Other symptoms are dizziness, shortness of breath, impaired judgment, chest pain, confusion, depression, hallucinations, vomiting, abdominal pain, fainting, seizure and memory loss.
Make sure the chimney pipe of the heating stove is well-sealed and clean. You should clean the soot out of the chimney once a week. When heating, you should open the windows from time to time to ventilate the room.
If you suspect a build-up of CO, move all family members away from the CO source and into fresh air. If you suspect CO poisoning, you must immediately seek medical attention at a hospital emergency department.