Cold Weather Survival: Cold Injuries

Cold Injuries

When dealing with injuries and sicknesses it is imperative to take measures to prevent them from ever happening. Prevention is paramount.

It's easier to stop something from happening in the first place than to repair the damage after it has happened. If at all possible prepare for facing the cold before being captured by it. Wear proper layers, know your risks, pack for possible survival before embarking in new territory, and carry a good first aid kit. 


Hypothermia is the lowering of the body temperature. Initial symptom of hypothermia is shivering. First you shiver. Then you shiver to the point that you can't control it or stop it. This is your body trying to produce heat to warm itself. Sluggish thinking, irrational reasoning or next and eventually a feeling of warmth may occur. This is a critical point. You will feel warm but you MUST try to warm yourself up or you will die. Warming up brings on the sensation of pain again, but you must endure this or you will not make it. The will to survive is paramount here and it is at this point that many people give in and stop fighting to live. Death comes at around 77 degree core body temperature. CAUTION Rewarming the entire body in a warm bath if shelter is reached should be slow because of the real risk of cardiac arrest and rewarming shock. CAUTION Never force an unconscious or semi-conscious person to drink.


Frostbite means having parts of your body freeze. Mild frostbite involves only the skin that takes on a dull whitish pallor. Deep frostbite extends to a depth below the skin. Feet, hands, and exposed facial areas usually the first areas affected by frostbite. There is no fix once it has happened so prevention here is the only option available to combat it.

Trench Foot

Trench Foot occurs after many hours or days of exposure to wet or damp conditions at low temperatures just above freezing. The symptoms are a sensation of pins and needles, tingling, numbness, and then pain. The skin will appear wet, white and shriveled. Eventually if the condition is not corrected with dry warmth the skin will turn red and then a bluish or black. The feet will swell. Walking becomes difficult and the feet feel heavy and numb. In extreme cases, the flesh dies and it may become necessary to have the foot or leg amputated. The best prevention is to keep your feet dry. Dehydration When clothed for cold weather, you must drink water to replace lost fluids. Your need for water is as great in a cold environment as essential just like it is in hot weather. One way to tell if you are becoming dehydrated is to check the color of your urine. The darker the urine the worse the dehydration.

Snow Blindness

The reflection of the sun's ultraviolet rays off a snow causes this condition. The symptoms of snow blindness are a sensation of grit in the eyes, pain in and over the eyes that increases with eyeball movement, red eyes, and a headache that intensifies with continued exposure to light. Continued exposure to these bright snowy conditions will result in permanent eye damage. To treat snow blindness, bandage your eyes until the symptoms disappear, you can basically make a set of eye patches with a hole just big enough to see through to help or prevent the occurrence. You can prevent snow blindness by wearing sunglasses. 



Although washing yourself may be uncomfortable in a cold environment, you really need to wash periodically to help prevent rashes. Once you have a rash it can quickly turn into something more serious when in a survival situation.

Check out Part 3 Cold Weather Survival: Fire and Shelter

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