Will you be working outside this winter? Be careful – to avoid problems such as frostbite, certain measures are required!
Frostbite can happen when you are exposed to cold for extended periods of time. You are at risk whenever the temperature reaches 0 degrees Celsius or below. Proper clothing is often the key to success for safely working in the cold. But first, what is frostbite?
It is an injury caused by exposure to cold. The most frequently affected areas are the extremities, such as fingers, toes, nose and ears. One of the first signs of frostbite is the loss of feeling. The skin then becomes hard, white and waxy in appearance. In the most severe cases, it can become purplish or black.
The severity of frostbite depends on the duration of exposure to the cold. At the slightest numbness in any part of your body, don’t wait, go and warm yourself!
Tips for preventing frostbite
- Be aware of the weather forecast. You will be able to dress accordingly.
- Wear mitts and a tuque. Mitts are better than gloves, since the fingers kept together are affected by frostbite more slowly. In addition, almost 50% of body heat is lost from the head. When it’s cold, cover it with a hat!
- Protect your face
To protect your face, you must separate eye protection from nose and mouth protection to prevent moisture in exhaled air from fogging your glasses. Are you a ski monitor? Choose protective goggles suited to your work which will protect against the sun’s ultraviolet rays, blowing snow and strong winds.
- Wear several layers of clothing. Use the “onion skin technique” by wearing several layers of clothing. You can remove a layer depending on your level of activity. The innermost layer has the role of eliminating moisture and keeping the body warm. Favour synthetic microfibres and avoid cotton, which absorbs perspiration. The second layers is for insulation. For example, you can put on a sweater made of natural wool or fleece. If your clothes get wet, change them immediately.
- Double your stockings. Wear a pair of thick socks or two pairs of stockings. Socks made of synthetic fibres will help keep your feet dry and warm. Avoid squeezing your feet into your boots with socks that are too thick. This will slow down blood circulation and increase the risk of injuries from cold.
- Keep active. The best way to avoid frostbite is… to move!
- Drink regularly while you work. Your blood circulation will be better, which will prevent chilling of your extremities. If you are cold, take a break and take the time to warm up with a cup of hot chocolate or a bowl of soup.
- Eat well. Build your strength by eating a good meal, preferably high in fat and carbohydrates (pasta, rice, potatoes, dairy products).
To learn more about how to dress will for working outdoors, visit a store that specializes in open air activities. They are usually a good source of information. You can also visit the website of the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. For frostbite, don’t hesitate to talk to your pharmacist.