Lisa Pfeifer – OSU Ag Safety and Health Education Coordinator
Those Dean Martin lyrics have become an earworm by the close of the winter holiday season every year, but they sure rang true this year in Ohio for the final weeks of 2017. Ohio farmers who had to be out in those frigid temps endured that cold firsthand. Daily work on the farm goes on regardless of what weather blows in. Farmers do not get the luxury of hibernating in a warm office or calling in sick when the weather outside takes a drastic turn for the worse. There are still numerous responsibilities to tend to out in the elements: animals to feed, water supplies to check, hatches to button down, fences to maintain, shelters to clean, lanes to clear, medications to administer. It really is an endless list.
Along with the cold outside, comes the dangers of frostbite and hypothermia. If you can’t avoid the cold because work still has to be done, knowing who is at high risk for frostbite and hypothermia, the most vulnerable body parts, and how to dress to protect yourself can help to keep you safe. Keep in mind that preventive measures are the first line of defense. Prepare your home and vehicle with winter weather emergencies in mind.
Wearing a scarf or mask that covers the face and mouth, a hat, a water-resistant coat, mittens or gloves, multiple layers of clothing, and water-resistant boots will offer you protection. The ears, nose, cheeks, chin, fingers, and toes are the areas of the body most often affected, so make sure you cover those areas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns those most at risk fall into the following categories:
- Older adults with inadequate food, clothing, or heating
- Babies sleeping in cold bedrooms
- The homeless, hikers, hunters, or those that remain outdoors for long periods
- Those who drink alcohol or use illicit drugs
Both frostbite or hypothermia can occur when a person is exposed to extremely cold temperatures. In the cold the body loses heat faster than it can be produced, which in turn can lead to health problems.
The CDC has a list of signs and symptoms that may indicate frostbite:
- Redness or pain in any skin area
- A white or grayish-yellow skin area
- Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
Signs & symptoms of hypothermia the CDC points to are:
- Fumbling hands
- Memory Loss
- Slurred speech
- Infants may present with bright red, cold skin and/or very low energy
If you notice any of the above signs, move the person to warm shelter and take their temperature. If a person’s temperature is below 95° get medical attention immediately. Remove any wet clothing and wrap the person in warm blankets.
Please reference the factsheet, “Injury Prevention: Working In Cold Weather” at https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/AEX-981.14-11 for more precautions and recommendations on the subject.