One of the toughest and most extreme survival situations to find yourself in is being trapped in the cold with in subzero temperatures, freezing winds, snowstorms and the ever present danger of hypothermia and frostbite. All your basic needs immediately become harder to fulfill as soon as you step into the cold. However, with the right knowledge and even a little preparation, you can survive even such extremely threatening situations.
Cold weather brings certain dangers that you should be aware of before heading to that ski resort you’ve been planning to visit. One that everybody has heard of is frostbite. This is when your tissues actually freeze, and occurs if you expose your flesh to cold temperatures. To avoid it, keep every inch of your skin covered with clothing, blankets, newspapers, or whatever you have. Keep moving your body parts to keep the blood flowing, and stretch your facial muscles to exercise them. However, sometimes, despite all your precautions, frostbite can occur. You know that you have frostbite when your skin gets a whitish pallor and feels hard and numb. As soon as you suspect frostbite, immediately warm your skin by placing it in tepid water. Too much warmth will cause burns. Also, rubbing will make things worse, so after immersion in water, tap the skin very gently to dry it. Get medical help as soon as possible.
Another very real and very deadly danger is hypothermia. This is a natural reaction to extreme cold, and is your body’s attempt to conserve what remaining heat it has. Its symptoms are not very noticeable, but shivering, combined with slurring of speech, slow breathing and gradual loss of mental or physical ability indicates its onset. To avoid hypothermia, keep your body, and especially your head, well covered to minimize heat loss. Move around to stay warm. Sleeping too much can be dangerous too. If you or someone with you seems in danger of hypothermia, never apply anything hot directly to the skin, and never immerse the body in hot water. Do not rub the skin either, and try to shelter the body as much as possible from the wind and cold. Again, medical attention must be sought as soon as possible.
One less commonly known threat of cold weather is dehydration. While most of us associate dehydration with hot, dry climates, it is actually a very big threat in cold weather. You sweat a lot under layers of clothing, and it usually evaporates before you notice it. You need to drink water to make up for its loss in order to avoid becoming dehydrated. You must remember never to eat snow or ice directly. The work that your body has to do in melting it actually outweighs the benefit of the liquid finally produced. It can cause further dehydration, and additionally, could be contaminated. Always to melt and purify snow before using it to meet your hydration needs.
Another danger in extreme cold is snow blindness. This is basically when the cornea suffers sunburn, and its symptoms are headaches, pain in and over the eye, reddish eyes, and irritation in the eyes. Even if it is cold, the sun reflects from the snow all around you, so this is a very real danger. To avoid it, cover your eyes with sunglasses if you have them, and if you do not, then use a strip of bark or cloth to tie around them with slits to see out of. The point is to prevent the glare from blinding you, so shield your eyes in any way you can think of.
The long and short of it is, cold environments might not sound as threatening or dangerous as arid, hot ones. However, truth is they are just as dangerous and maybe more. Never head out to the cold without learning enough about it that you can protect yourself from the dangers it brings, and keep as many survival items with you as you can carry so that this environment cannot get the best of you.