Prevention of Cold-Related Emergencies

Prevention of Cold-Related Emergencies

The initial prevention measure when considering coldrelated emergencies involves recognizing all environmental factors and being able to implement an on-site EAP. The EAP should address the prevention and recognition of coldrelated emergencies and then provide a plan of action to evaluate and treat the affected athlete Athletic trainers and other health care providers must be prepared to respond in a quick and appropriate manner to alleviate symptoms and minimize the chance of cold-related injuries or even death. The EAP will help prepare all involved for the proper management of all cold-related emergencies. Prevention of cold-related emergencies in athletics includes the following :

1. Have a wind chill chart on hand to determine the possibility of hypothermia or frostbite.

2. Dress in layers.

3. Cover the head to prevent excessive heat loss.

4. Stay dry by wearing breathable and water-repellent clothing materials.

5. Stay adequately hydrated before and during activity.

6. Eat regular and nutritious meals so the body is wellfueled and therefore more efficient; this also ensures adequate calories available for shivering.

7. Avoid alcohol and nicotine because they accelerate heat loss.

8. Educate athletes, coaches, officials, and parents to recognize cold-related emergencies.

9. If unsure whether an athlete is suffering from hypothermia and/or frostbite, always stay on the side of caution and treat accordingly. Cold-related emergencies may occur in most parts of the country, but it is a major concern for the athletes who participate in cold weather sports. Prompt recognition by an athletic trainer on the field is important for all cold-related emergencies. If frostbite is suspected, the damaged area should be

protected from any further freezing until rewarming can safely begin. The freeze-thaw process causes more damage than leaving the tissue frozen until proper medical direction is available. All wet clothing should be removed, and the damaged tissue should be covered with a dry dressing. The affected tissue should never be rubbed because this may cause further damage to the frostbite area as a result of the intracellular ice crystals. The athlete should be taken to an emergency care facility as soon as possible to be checked for possible hypothermia. If an athlete is also suffering from hypothermia, the first concern is core rewarming.When frostbite alone is the

problem, the best way to rewarm the tissue is by immersion in water at temperatures between 98°F and 102°F for 20 to 30 minutes . A common error is to apply snow to a frostbitten area or to massage it; both can cause serious damage to the thawing tissues. Do not rewarm an area with dry heat, such as a heat lamp, because frostbitten skin is easily burned as a result of the numb condition. Athletes suffering from frostbite may experience increased skin sensitivity or permanent tissue damage. It is strongly advised that the athlete keep frostbitten areas covered with clothing during the winter to prevent further damage to the affected body tissues that have not recovered.

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