Cold Injuries

Soldiers participating in military training or deployments will often encounter cold stress that can impact successful mission accomplishment. Continued exposure in a cold environment degrades physical performance capabilities, significantly impacts morale, and eventually causes cold weather injuries. Cold environments include exposure to extremely low temperatures (Arctic regions), and cold-wet exposures (rain or water immersion) in warmer ambient temperatures. Cold-weather conditions impair many aspects of normal military functioning in the field, which in turn can influence Soldier health and performance.

Frostbite. When skin is exposed to temperatures/wind chill of 20 degrees Fahrenheit or below there is potential for freezing of skin tissue or frostbite (Figure D-1).

  • Symptoms: A white or grayish-yellow skin area; skin that feels unusually firm or waxy; numbness in body parts exposed to the cold such as the nose, ears, feet, hands, and skin.
  • Treatment: Keeping susceptible areas covered is the easiest way to prevent frostbite from occurring (Figure D-2 ). If any of the aforementioned symptoms are experienced, immediately stop physical activity and seek treatment and/or medical attention.

Hypothermia. This condition develops when the body cannot produce heat as fast as it is losing it (Figure D-1). When Soldiers experience prolonged exposure to cold temperatures or become wet or submerged in cool- water temperatures, they are susceptible to hypothermia.

  • Symptoms: Shivering, loss of judgment, slurred speech, drowsiness, and muscle weakness.
  • Treatment: Dressing in layers and wearing breathable undergarments that wick away moisture are helpful in preventing hypothermia. If a Soldier has the symptoms listed above, attempt to make him warmer and request medical attention.

Figure D-1. Wind chill chart

Figure D-2. Clothing recommendations for PRT

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