Top 3 winter first aid emergencies (and how to treat them)

Winter is here! And with it comes a new set of first aid emergencies that you can be prepared for. This week, we go over the top 3 first aid emergencies that happen in winter, how to treat them, and what you should have in your first aid kits to be winter prepared.

1. Frostbite

Frostbite happens when part of the skin and other tissues freeze due to low temperatures. It's one of the leading first aid emergencies during winter, so it's important to know what to do if you or someone else suffers from frostbite. There are two types of frostbite, superficial (external skin is frozen) and deep (internal structures and tissues are frozen).

👉 Signs and Symptoms:

  • Cold, numb skin
  • Skin that appears red, white, bluish-white, or grayish-yellow
  • Hard or waxy-looking skin
  • Blistering in severe cases

👉 How to Treat Frostbite:

  1. Get to a Warm Place: Move the affected person to a warm, dry area.
  2. Rewarm the Affected Areas: Soak the frostbitten areas in warm (not hot) water, ideally between 37°C and 40°C, for 15-30 minutes. Avoid direct heat sources like stoves or heat lamps.
  3. Protect the Frostbitten Area: Wrap the area loosely with sterile dressing. Place gauze or cotton between fingers and toes to prevent rubbing.
  4. Avoid Walking on Frostbitten Feet or Toes: This can cause further damage.
  5. Seek Medical Attention: Severe frostbite requires professional medical treatment.

    2. Hypothermia

    Hypothermia is a condition when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature. 

    👉 Signs and Symptoms:

    • Intense shivering
    • Slurred speech or mumbling
    • Slow and shallow breathing
    • Weak pulse
    • Clumsiness or lack of coordination
    • Drowsiness or extreme fatigue
    • Confusion or memory loss
    • Loss of consciousness

    👉 How to treat Hypothermia:

    1. Move to a Warm Place: If you suspect someone has hypothermia, get them indoors or to a sheltered area immediately.
    2. Remove Wet Clothing: Wet clothing can accelerate heat loss. Replace wet clothes with dry, warm ones.
    3. Warm the Person Gradually: Use warm blankets, heating pads, or your own body heat to warm the person. Avoid using hot water or direct heat, which can cause shock.
    4. Provide Warm Beverages: If the person is conscious and able to swallow, offer warm, non-alcoholic, caffeine-free drinks.
    5. Monitor Breathing: Keep a close eye on the person's breathing. Be ready to administer CPR if necessary.
    6. Seek Medical Attention: Hypothermia is a medical emergency. Professional medical help is essential.

    3. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

    Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can be deadly. It is often produced by malfunctioning heating systems, gas appliances, or car exhausts in enclosed spaces.

    👉 Signs and Symptoms:

    • Headache
    • Dizziness
    • Weakness
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Shortness of breath
    • Confusion
    • Blurred vision
    • Loss of consciousness

    👉 How to Treat Carbon Monoxide Poisoning:

    1. Move to fresh air immediately: Get the affected person into fresh air as quickly as possible.
    2. Call 000: Carbon monoxide poisoning is a life-threatening emergency and requires immediate medical attention.
    3. Monitor breathing and heart rate: Be prepared to perform CPR if the person is not breathing or if the heart stops beating.
    4. Do not re-enter the area: Stay out of the area until it has been declared safe by emergency personnel.

    🌟Bonus emergency🌟Sunburn

    Sunburn can happen all year round. In fact, it happens equally in winter as it does summer. People generally don't expect to get sunburnt on a cold winter day and do not apply sunscreen before going outdoors. 

    With outdoor adventure activities like snow skiing, the sun is reflected back and causes increased exposure to the sun and risk of sunburn. Sunburn is a sign that the skin has been exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays for too long, but skin damage isn't always evident. Sunburn typically presents as a reddening of the skin and blistering, along side dizziness and nausea for more severe cases.

    👉 Signs and Symptoms:

    • Red, hot skin
    • Pain and tenderness
    • Swelling
    • Blisters
    • Peeling, itching
    • Dryness and tightness
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea

    👉 To treat Sunburn;

    1. Cool down: Apply cold compresses or take cool baths/showers to soothe the skin.
    2. Hydrate: Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and aid in skin recovery.
    3. Moisturise: Apply soothing lotions or aloe vera to moisturize and hydrate the affected area.
    4. Pain relief: Over-the-counter pain relievers can help reduce inflammation and discomfort.
    5. Avoid further sun exposure: Cover up with clothing and hats, and stay out of the sun until the burn heals to prevent further damage.

    Preparing your First Aid Kit for Winter

    It's important to have an appropriately stocked first aid kit for winter activities. You never know when an emergency can happen, and it's good to be prepared. 

    If you're starting from scratch, here are some great first aid kits to get you started:

    1. Modular Survival First Aid Kit - Covering all your outdoor adventure first aid needs. Unique colour coded modules for easy location of contents.
    2. R1 Vehicle Max First Aid Kit - The ideal deluxe vehicle kit for your road trips, easily slotting behind or under a seat in your vehicle.
    3. R2 4WD Outback First Aid Kit - If camping in winter is your thing, be sure to be prepared with this value packed kit!

    If you've already got a first aid kit, that's great! We'd recommend that you check all its contents are up to date and ready to go, and suggest you consider these additions for outdoor winter activities:

    1. Emergency shock blanketPerfect for keeping a patient warm. 
    2. SunscreenProtect your skin during Winter outdoor activities.
    3. HydrogelForgot to slip, slop, slap? Our aloe vera based burn gel is perfect for soothing Sunburns. 
    4. Heat PackTo help increase warmth in vital areas on the body.
    5. TorchThe hours of sunlight are shorter in Winter, it's a good idea to keep a torch handy in case it gets dark whilst you're treating an unexpected first aid emergency. 

    Have questions about your first aid kit? Or not sure what first aid kit is right for you? Get in touch with us! 

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