Braving the North Dakota winter

Airman 1st Class J.T. Armstrong, 5th Bomb Wing photojournalist, shovels snow at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Jan. 12, 2017. When going outside for even a short period of time, it’s important to remember that if not properly prepared, North Dakota’s cold temperatures and wind chills can be dangerous. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class J.T. Armstrong)

Airman 1st Class J.T. Armstrong, 5th Bomb Wing photojournalist, shovels snow at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Jan. 12, 2017. When going outside for even a short period of time, it’s important to remember that if not properly prepared, North Dakota’s cold temperatures and wind chills can be dangerous. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class J.T. Armstrong)

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Winter can be a great time to enjoy the outdoors by going skiing and snowboarding, ice fishing or even building a snowman. If you plan on going outside for even a short period of time, it’s important to remember that if not properly prepared, North Dakota’s cold temperatures and wind chills can be dangerous.

According to Rod Krause, 5th Bomb Wing occupational safety manager, knowing how to dress and keep dry are the first steps to being prepared.

“Dress in layers, choosing fabrics such as cotton and wool that will insulate, but allow sweat to evaporate,” said Krause. “It’s especially important to cover your head, because that’s where you can lose over half of your body heat.”

Dressing properly is just part of the battle against the cold. Knowing the signs of cold stress, which can be seen in the form of hypothermia or frostbite, is vital to staying safe in the cold.

Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature falls below 95 F and heat is being lost faster than it can be produced.

According to the American Red Cross, symptoms of hypothermia include:
• Shivering
• Numbness
• Weakness
• Impaired judgement or confusion
• Slurred speech
• Loss of Consciousness

If someone is experiencing hypothermia, call 911. The individual should be moved to a warm location and replace any wet clothes with warm ones.

Frostbite is commonly known as the freezing of specific body parts. It is most likely to first affect areas like fingers, toes, earlobes and the nose.

The Red Cross states that frostbite symptoms include:
• Tingling or numbness in the affected area
• Skin that appears waxy or cold to the touch
• Skin turning white, greyish-yellow or blue
• Pain or blisters in the affected area

To treat frostbite, you should seek medical care immediately. Move to a warm place and never rub the affected area. Soak the frostbitten area in warm water until the skin feels warm. Loosely wrap the skin in dry bandages, being careful not to break any blisters. Lastly, do not let the skin refreeze.

Cold temperatures can be damaging to the body or even fatal. It is important to remember to dress properly and take frequent breaks to warm up while enjoying the outdoors this time of year.
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