Dangers of Wind Chill

The effect of wind on the cold air temperature is called the wind chill. In the winter months people need to not only be aware of the temperature but also the wind chill before going outside. The greater the wind speed the faster we lose body heat.  When areas of the body are not covered or there is a prolonged exposure to low wind chills the body temperature can be driven down and cause damage to the skin and eventually the organs.

When the extreme cold causes damage to the body tissues frostbite occurs. When the wind chill reaches -20F it can cause frostbite in just thirty minutes. Symptoms of frostbite include a loss of feeling to an area of the body, a burning feeling or tingling and  extremities that look pale or white. Frostbite will usually affect the fingers, toes, ears and nose first. Medical attention should be sought at this point. If there is a delay in getting medical attention slowly rewarm the affected areas. Do not place frostbitten areas in warm water or cover with heating pads. Also do not rub the affected area as this can cause more tissue damage.

If a person is exposed to dangerously low temperatures and wind chills for a prolonged amount of time hypothermia can set in. This happens when the body temperature drops below 95F. This is a medical emergency as the body is losing more heat than it is making. If a person is suffering from hypothermia they will often times be confused, slurring their speech, stumbling when walking and have shallow breathing and a weak pulse. If medical attention is delayed start by moving the person out of the cold and removing any wet clothing. Cover the person from head to toe in blankets and use your own body heat to help warm them. You want to warm them slowly and starting from the core of their body. If the extremities are warmed first the cold blood from these areas will go to the heart and can lead to heart failure.  Remember not to apply direct heat.

If you need to be out during times of low wind chills be prepared. Cover as much of your body as possible. Wear heavy gloves and boots with warm socks. Keep your body dry. Wear layers of clothing that are loose fitting. If traveling by car bring emergency supplies and make sure your gas tank is full and your cell phone is charged. Being prepared could save a life.