Winter Survival Tips from an ER Physician (and former Army Ranger)
Severe winter weather is a deadly threat and survival is a matter of strategy, according to Jedidiah Ballard, DO, an osteopathic emergency physician and former Army Ranger.
Dr. Ballard, named the 2016 “Ultimate Men’s Health Guy,” outlined survival priorities for winter’s worst case scenarios.
1. Stay Dry
Water saps body heat 27 times faster than dry cold. Wear a water-wicking base layer, either wool or synthetic, when outside for extended periods of time.
You won’t usually feel thirsty in cold weather because of hyper-diuresis, a process in which the body shunts blood inward to protect vital organs from the cold. This creates the illusion that you’re well hydrated and even makes the bladder feel full due to the increase in blood volume, which in turn makes you have to pee. However, perception is not reality and your body will shut down without sufficient water intake.
3. Protect extremities
Frostbite sets in within 30 minutes in temperatures of 0° and within 10 minutes at -10°. Because our body parts get numb in subfreezing temps, you won’t know it’s happened until you begin to thaw. Covering vulnerable extremities like fingers and ears is vital.
4. If stranded, sit tight
Shelter is critical. If you’re in a car, stay there. In a blizzard, you’re more likely to get lost than find help, so stay dry and protected from wind.
5. Know the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning
This is especially true if you use a fuel-burning space heater in your home. Pay attention if you feel light-headed or notice your pets acting funny. In such cases, get out of the house and get to an ER immediately. If stuck in your car, make sure the exhaust pipe is clear so carbon monoxide doesn’t back up into the car.