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How to prevent the five most common cold weather injuries

Just because the warm weather is behind us doesn't mean the work outside stops. Without the proper precautions, cold weather injuries are just as likely to occur as warm weather injuries. The temperature does not need to be below freezing to put you at risk for a cold weather injury. Some injuries considered 'cold weather' could occur at temperatures as warm as 60 degrees.

If you suffer a cold weather injury in the workplace, you may be entitled to compensation from your employer. With fall temperatures in Iowa near 50 degrees and winter temperatures below 20 degrees, it is important to be aware of the symptoms, treatment, and prevention of cold weather injuries. 

The five most commons cold weather injuries are:

1. Frostbite

· Frostbite occurs in temperatures below 32 degrees.

· It most likely to affect exposed skin especially fingers, toes, face, and ears.

· Working with metal tools and petroleum-based fluids can increase your risk of exposure to frostbite.

· Symptoms of frostbite include numbness and discoloration of the skin.

· To treat frostbite, gradually warm the affected area but avoid extreme heat.

· Seek medical attention if dark bruises appear or feeling does not return to the affected area.

2. Chilblains

· Chilblains occur at temperatures between 32 - 50 degrees.

· Like frostbite, it is most likely to affect wet, uncovered skin.

· Symptoms include clusters of red, painful, itchy bumps and swollen skin.

· To treat, gradually warm affected area.

· Seek medical attention if symptoms last for more than five hours.

3. Trench Foot

· Trench foot occurs at temperatures between 32 - 60 degrees.

· Most likely to occur when snow is melting and ground is wet.

· Symptoms include numbness, redness and swelling of feet and toes.

· To treat, lie down, remove socks and boots and elevate feet.

· Seek medical attention if extreme symptoms like bleeding or blisters occur.

4. Carbon monoxide poisoning

· Can happen at any temperature.

· Increased risk when running vehicles and space heaters in enclosed areas.

· Symptoms include dizziness, sickness, confusion or feeling faint.

· If you experience symptoms, immediately leave the area and call 911.

5. Hypothermia

· Can occur at any temperature.

· Risk increases with prolonged exposure to cold, wet environments.

· Frostbite is an early warning sign of hypothermia.

· Dangerous symptoms are similar to drunkenness (shivering, slurred speech, confusion, poor motor skills).

· To treat, move the person to warm area, cover with coats and blankets and call 911.

Prevention

· Avoid cotton clothing. It can trap sweat.

· Wear layered, non-restrictive clothing.

· Work in pairs to watch co-worker for symptoms.

· Be aware of wind chill and air temperature.

As the temperatures begin to drop, we hope that you can follow these guidelines and stay safe. Workers' compensation might help after an injury, but you probably prefer to avoid getting hurt at all.

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