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People with Disabilities and Freezing Temperatures

Author: Thomas C. Weiss : Contact: Disabled World

Published: 2013-01-16 : (Rev. 2016-01-06)

Synopsis and Key Points:

Information concerning persons with disability regarding dealing with cold weather and subsequent frostnip and frostbite.

Main Digest

When I woke up this morning it was two degree below zero in Pueblo, Colorado where I am visiting some people who are important in my life. My little hearing assistant dog, Frijole, popped out of the front door with me and then promptly headed back to the front door. As I was out front of the house, parents of children who attend the school across the street who were not aware of the two-hour delay drove up to the front of the school to encounter a staff member who reminded them of the fact.

Frostnip - The reversible freezing of superficial skin layers that is usually marked by numbness and whiteness of the skin.

Hypothermia - A condition in which body core temperature drops below the required temperature for normal metabolism and body functions defined as 35.0 degree C (95.0 degree F). Body temperature is usually maintained near a constant level of 36.5 to 37.5 degree C (98 to 100 degree F). Hypothermia can quickly become life threatening and should be treated as a medical emergency. Hypothermia is the opposite of hyperthermia which is present in heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Frostbite - Much more serious and may occur when skin is exposed to a temperature lower than 14 degree F (-10 degree C). Skin first becomes very cold and red, then numb, hard, pale and swollen when underlying tissues are affected. Frostbite requires immediate medical attention because of possible extensive injury, which can be complicated by infection and nerve damage.

When the temperatures drop down to such a degree, the schools in Pueblo become concerned for all of the students, as well as their family members. With no real understanding of just how many students and family members experience forms of disabilities, it was gratifying to find the schools taking this step. It must be exceptionally hard on people who have forms of disabilities to also endure sub-zero temperatures.

Imagine, if you will, that you are a person who uses a wheelchair, walker, or other type of adaptive equipment and might take additional time to get out of your home, into a means of transportation, and then into a school or place of employment. During a time of year when the temperatures are below zero, this can be a true hardship. It isn't that there is a lot of snow on the ground here in Pueblo today, it is simply the reality of the cold and the potential for things such as frostnip or frostbite.

Dealing with Frostnip

'Frostnip,' is a milder form of frostbite and commonly affects areas of a person's body that are exposed to the cold such as a person's nose, ears, cheeks, toes, and fingers. The result of frostnip is redness, numbness, or tingling. Frostnip is something that can be treated at home and improves through re-warming. The following are steps you can take to deal with frostnip:

Cold, Frostbite, and People with Disabilities

'Frostbite,' means quite literally, 'frozen body tissue,' most often a person's skin, although it may also involve deeper tissues. Frostbite must be dealt with very carefully in order to prevent permanent damage to tissues. There are varying degrees of frostbite that are based upon the depth of the injury to a person's tissues, ranging from a superficial area of the skin all the way to muscle and bone injury in more severe instances. Frostbite is something that requires prompt medical attention from a health care provider.

Children are at an increased risk for frostbite, more so than adults, not only because children lost heat from their skin more quickly but also because they might be reluctant to wear appropriate clothing or leave winter fun to inside and warm back up. Areas of the body that are most prone to frostbite include a person's ears, face, feet, and hands. Frostbite may also be associated with hypothermia - a serious medical condition requiring emergency medical assistance.

Dealing with Frostbite

Frostbite is characterized by skin that is white and waxy and feels hard and numb. Frostbite is something that requires prompt emergency medical attention. The condition may be associated with hypothermia - also a serious medical emergency. The following are steps you should take in relation to frostbite:

If you are unable to get to a hospital promptly, or you have to wait for an ambulance, give the person a warm drink and start first aid treatment to include:

Preventing Frostbite

You can take some different steps to help prevent frostbite during cold weather. One of the things you can do is remain updated on weather forecasts in your area. If it is very cold, even a brief exposure to the cold may cause frostbite. You can also:

Quick Facts:

When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. It is very important to remember to take caution during extremely cold temperatures and severe winter weather to prevent injuries and illness, such as hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia occurs most commonly at very cold environmental temperatures, but can occur even at cool temperatures (above 40 degree F) if a person becomes chilled from rain, sweat, or submersion in cold water.

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