Health Advocate Blog

Protect Yourself Against Hypothermia and Frostbite

From skiing to shoveling snow, when doing any type of activity outdoors during winter, take precautions to protect yourself from dangerous conditions like hypothermia and frostbite.

What is hypothermia?

Hypothermia is when your body’s internal temperature drops to dangerous levels. When a person is exposed to cold temperatures, their body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure will eventually use up their body’s stored energy. When someone’s body temperature is too low, it affects the brain, making them unable to think clearly or move well. Hypothermia happens even faster if a person becomes chilled from rain, sweat, or submersion in cold water.

Warning signs of hypothermia:

  • Shivering
  • Exhaustion
  • Confusion and/or memory loss
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness

What is frostbite?

Frostbite is an injury to the body caused by freezing. Frostbite causes loss of feeling and color in the affected areas—most often the nose, ears, cheeks, chin and fingers or toes. Frostbite can permanently damage the body, and severe cases can even lead to amputation of affected areas.

Warning signs of frostbite:

  • A white grayish-yellow skin area
  • Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
  • Numbness

What to do if you suspect hypothermia or frostbite

If you or someone you know is showing signs of frostbite or hypothermia, immediately seek medical attention. These are serious medical conditions that require emergency medical assistance.

Ways to reduce your risk

Wearing appropriate water- and wind-proof clothing and equipment, layering your clothes, and staying as dry as possible are all great ways to prevent hypothermia and frostbite. Additionally, make sure to always be with someone else when you are outdoors in the winter. In addition to the fun aspects of having a buddy along while you ski (or even to help you clear your car of snow), if anything happens to you while you’re outside, your friend or family member is there to assist you and call for help.

More resources for help

For more information on hypothermia and frostbite, visit the links below:

Red Cross:Hypothermia and Frostbite

Centers for Disease and Control:Emergency Preparedness and Response- Hypothermia

Centers for Disease and Control:Emergency Preparedness and Response- Frostbite

Remember, if you are a Health Advocate member, you can always call your Personal Health Advocate for assistance with finding an in-network physician or medical center, understanding your health insurance benefits, and more!