Coldweather Injuries

Cold-weather injuries can occur during any season of the year. Death has resulted in temperatures as high as 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit). A loss of body heat combined with shock produces devastating results. However, most of these accidents can be prevented by proper planning to include: timely requisition and receipt of supplies and proper clothing; thorough training of personnel with respect to the hazards of cold weather; effective methods for the receipt, dissemination, and use of cold-weather data; periodic inspections of clothing, personnel, and equipment; and personnel receiving a balance of water, rest, and nutrition.

a. Soldiers must be prepared to survive, move, and fight in winter conditions. Intense cold affects the mind as well as the body. Simple tasks take longer to perform, and they take more effort than in a temperate climate. When weather conditions become extreme the problems of survival become more significant. Warmth and comfort become the top priorities. The effects of extreme cold and the probability of injury are magnified due to the lack of proper diet and sleep. The most important measure in the prevention of cold-weather injuries is the education of personnel and their leaders.

b. Cold injuries may be divided into two types: freezing and nonfreezing. The freezing type is known as frostbite. The nonfreezing type includes hypothermia, dehydration, and immersion foot. Cold injuries result from impaired circulation and the action of ice formation and cold upon the tissues of the body. Temperature alone is not a reliable guide as to whether a cold injury can occur. Low temperatures are needed for cold injuries to occur, but freezing temperatures are not. Wind speed can accelerate body heat loss under both wet and cold conditions. All commanders and subordinate leaders/instructors must be familiar with and carry GTA 5-8-12, which includes a wind chill equivalent temperature chart (Figure 2-1, page 2-12).

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