The medical monday post for this week will be late. Between how busy our week was and the cold I came down with I didn’t have much time to put a post together. But as a consolation I will be posting another article this week to make up for it. Life happens.
Another week, another medical monday post. This week we are going to cover cold weather injuries. Identification, treatment, and even prevention will all be covered. Once again, if you want an input into what will be discussed on medical monday, you must go join Unchained Preppers. I have topics for a few more weeks, but once I start getting very low I’ll start asking for ideas over there. So head over and make an account. I promise medical is not the only subject you’ll learn over there.
Cold weather injuries are some of the easiest to prevent and the hardest to come back from long term. Frostbite can lead to gangrene in the extremities if not dealt with quickly enough and hypothermia can cause death. But they are relatively easy to prevent.
Frost bite is generally defined as freezing of the skin and underlying tissues. Just like burns in comes in levels of severity. The first is Frost nip. Frost nip is generally mild, does not cause permanent damage and is easily treatable. You can identify by mild redness and a numb/tingling sensation in the affected area. Anything that is exposed to outside air can become affected but generally your appendages (hands, fingers, toes, and feet) and ears and nose are some of the first to be affected by frost bite at all. This is mostly due to the fact that the blood vessels in these are some of the first to shunt, or close off, during times of extreme cold. Simply rewarm the affected areas and be sure to keep them covered to prevent it from advancing any further.
Superficial frostbite is the next severity and is when the reddened skin starts to turn white or pale. After rewarming the skin may appear mottled (spotted or blotchy) and after 12-36 hours a fluid filled blister may appear. This type is frost bite reaches deeper into the skin and affects may be permanent. Prevention is the best medicine you can get for this.
Deep frostbite reaches all the way down to the underlying tissues beneath the skin and is the most serious. Skin will turn white or bluish gray and you will experience numbness. Loosing all sensation of heat, cold, touch, and even pain. Joints or muscles may no longer work. Large blisters will form 24-48 hours after rewarming. The skin will turn black and hard later, as the tissue dies. There is little to no treatment for this. You are treating the related issues, like gangrene.
With all kinds of frostbite, prevention going to be key. Keep exposed skin to a minimum in extreme cold. Wear clothing in layers that you can adjust to the temperature and your activity. You want to be able to remove layers to prevent from sweating if you are being extremely active, like chopping wood, or walking a perimeter patrol. Sweating can lead to hypothermia. Wear an outer layer that blocks the wind. Goretex is great for an outer layer. I won’t go into specifics because it really depends on your location, the specific climate, and what you are going to be doing. If it does occur gradually rewarm the affected areas. Do not stick them in hot water or extremely close to a fire. The loss of sensation will prevent them from noticing the tissue burning until you smell it, and at that point the damage is already done. Also do not rub or massage the affected areas because that can cause damage to the surrounding tissues.
Along the same vein as Frostbite is Chilblains. Chilblains is caused when it is cold but not freezing, and wet. The affected area will be red, inflamed, itchy, and blistered. Treatment is the same as frostbite. Remove the person from the weather, warm gradually, and keep dry. Prevent is pretty much the same. Keep warm and dry. Liner gloves play a big role here. Just like liner socks for hiking the idea is to wick away moisture and prevent skin to fabric friction.
Hypothermia is lowering of the core body temperature. It isn’t just relegated to cold climates either. Spending all day in the lake on a summer day can cause it. Normal body temperature is roughly 98.6 degrees F. Hypothermia is defined as anything less than 95 degrees F.
Shivering is the first symptom you will notice. Shivering is a natural response to lowering core temperature. This does not mean that they are into hypothermia so far that you need to worry about them, just that you should keep an eye on this person to make sure it doesn’t progress any further. Like how you sweat when it’s hot out. It is just your body trying to maintain normal the medical term for this is homeostasis.
You need to be concerned once the patient progresses further down the rabbit hole. Slurred speech or mumbling, slow and shallow breathing, weak pulse, clumsiness or lack of coordination, drowsiness or very low energy, confusion or memory loss, loss of consciousness, and in infants bright red, cold skin.
Most people with true hypothermia don’t know that they are experiencing it. The gradual onset is a big part. Another is the confusion and memory loss prevent self awareness. This is why it is important to stay in groups. Everyone can watch each other for these signs and symptoms.
Treatment is fairly simple. Remove the patient from the environment and slowly warm them. Remove all wet clothing and either leave them naked, or replace with dry clothing if you have it. This is why during cold weather field exercises people are told to keep at least one pair of dry clean socks in their bag, to wear at night. You do not want to dump them into a steaming hot bath or shower because it can cause the body to go into shock. If they are conscious have them ingest lukewarm fluids. Get them close to a heat source, but closely monitor them to make sure they don’t burn themselves. give them blankets or a sleeping bag to cover up with. Something we were taught when I was in scouting was “skin to skin wins”. Simply put, get down to your skivvies and get under a blanket with them. Let your body heat gradually warm them.
As with anything else in life, prevention is the best course of action. Layering is your friend. Stay away from cotton in the colder months. Especially if you leave near water (including the frozen kinds). Utilize natural and synthetic fibers to wick away moisture from your skin. I am a huge advocate of wool. Specifically Merino wool, but about any kind would do the job. Wool has amazing heat retention properties and when wet still maintains around 80% of it warming properties. Military surplus (especially foreign) is a great place to get ahold of wool clothing. I used to use a German military wool sweater, Czech military wool pants, a wool ski cap, poly-pro long john top and bottoms, and lined waterproof boots in Eastern Washington during the winter when my Scout Troop would go camping and it more than did the job even down to negative temperatures. Military Goretex jackets are great outer layers because they are waterproof and block the wind, but still allow moisture to exit. I am even more so a fan of wool now that I live in Eastern NC. If it came down to having to do patrols during the winter, that ability to stay warm while wet is invaluable. And remember, it’s not about being toasty and cozy, it’s about staying warm enough to not die. “Pack light, freeze at night” has been a part of the military vernacular far longer than goretex has been around. Find equipment that works for you in your environment. But part of that requires training. Get training.
Don’t be left out in the cold, bleeding like a stuck pig.
This idea was started on http://unchainedpreppers.org where I would post some basic but important medical ideas relevant to the prepared citizen in an austere environment. The idea was that I would publish a new post every Monday for everyone to read. This is much easier said than done when the only equipment you have regular access to is an Iphone SE and little to no free time to publish anything. I also wanted somewhere these could be easily stored and accessed, more so than just to the people on UP. Hence why I started this blog. I will be taking requests for topics, but only on UP.
This week the topic is Muscle Cramps. These can range from mild inconvenience all the way to bed rest. Muscle Cramps are simply an involuntary, painful muscle contraction. If you have ever worked out heavily you have probably gotten them the next day. Some people get them in their sleep. They can be caused by a myriad of issues ranging from ischemia (or tissue death) of the muscle, to dehydration, and electrolyte imbalance. Pregnancy, diabetes, blood pressure medication, and nerve damage can also cause muscle cramps. The biggest offenders for most though are dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.
Fluids (most of which is water) allow our bodies to function properly, including our muscles. If you’ve ever worked a long, hard day of physical labor outside only to awake in the middle of the night with near crippling leg pain, those were muscle cramps. They are happening because you do not have enough water in your body so your muscles are not able to work properly. Heat cramps are simply muscle cramps caused by dehydration. Removal from the heat, gradual re-hydration, and massaging the affected muscles will help to alleviate this issue. But prevention is always the best medicine. Try to incorporate a work/rest cycle and insure everyone is drinking enough water. You do not want your urine completely clear, you are wasting water at this point, but a light straw color is a sign of proper hydration. Stretching is also extremely important for exercise related cramps. Before and after the activity make sure you stretch. Yoga is great for general stretching and flexibility.
Another segment to heat cramps is electrolyte imbalance. You need to make sure you are taking in enough salt and other minerals. Calcium, magnesium, and potassium deficiencies can all cause muscle cramps. Make sure you are taking in the recommended amounts of these. One gymnast found that by simply adding milk and yogurt into her diet that her muscle cramps went away entirely. Bananas are great for this but would be hard to find in the case of a collapse. Supplements are great for this. But do not over do them, because too much potassium can cause heart issues. Most of these can be found in food. Another great reason to have a garden and eat from it, collapse or not. Pickle juice and mustard both have been proven to reduce muscle cramps. And ounce of pickle juice or a teaspoon of mustard have been found to relieve muscle cramps in 1-2 minutes.
Muscle cramps or most often relatively minor, but if you are doing more physical work than normal and are reliant on your ability to do that work, cramps can hinder your ability to do regular activities. Regular hydration, proper nutrition, and stretching are all key to help relieve and prevent muscle cramps.
Next week we will be going over cold weather injuries. If you would like a say in the topics go over to http://unchainedpreppers.org and look for the Medical Monday post. But don’t forget to check out the entire forum. There is a wealth of information there.
Don’t be left bleeding out like a stuck pig, learn medical skills!
Stuck Pig Medical is something I have been thinking about for a while now. I have always been interested in blogging, but never really had much knowledge or experience in what my first blog was about to really get it off the ground. I will eventually give that blog more focus in a while, but for now this will be my baby that I can focus most of my blogging time into.
Proper medical information for preparedness minded individuals is in short supply. Too much info is either outdated, or beyond wrong. My hope is to use this blog as a way to give those individuals that are curious a starting point and reference for everything medical. Most, if not all, of my medical experience and knowledge is as a National Guard Combat Medic in a Combined Arms Battalion. Information will come from verified sources and all of it will be evidence based. But I’ll get into that in following blog posts.
Some of you following this blog will know me as Mech Medic from the Unchained Preppers forum. If you are not a member of that forum I recommend you remedy that immediately. It is an amazing group of people that have a wealth of information to share. A few of them have even taken a class from me (as of writing this post, the only class I have charged money to take). It was a TC3 basics course I put on with NC Scout of Brushbeater. The review is here: http://unchainedpreppers.com/forum/weapons/aar-tc3-class/
I do plan on doing more courses in the future, however at the current moment I am sitting overseas on a 9 month deployment. This will give me the time to fully set up this blog and get it running correctly with a regular posting schedule. It will also give me time to better my course in several ways and even work on more.
One of the things I do plan on doing is a “Medical Monday, it was something I brought up on Unchained Preppers and it was met with a lot of enthusiasm so I will be continuing it on here. So every Monday expect a post about something medical related to preparedness.
I look forward to seeing some of you at my courses or at some of NC Scout’s courses. I hope you enjoy this blog and can learn many things from it.