The following is a news release from the Louisiana Workers' Compensation Corporation.
BATON ROUGE, La. — With temperatures in Louisiana dropping into the 20s, it is important for workers who have to be exposed to such conditions to take steps to prevent cold-weather-related fatigue and injuries.
While frostbite is rare in Louisiana—and frostnip more likely—threats of either should be taken seriously given the near-record low temperatures. The parts of the body that are most susceptible are the nose, ears, cheeks, fingers and toes.
Frostnip is the freezing of the top layer of skin and is reversible by simply warming up the affected area. Frostbite, however, is the freezing of all layers of skin, in addition to other tissues such as muscle. Professional medical attention is the only way to treat frostbite.
"Having lived in the upper Midwest, I can tell you that the hazards of frostnip, frostbite and hypothermia are real," said Mike Page, Director of Safety and Loss Prevention for Louisiana Workers' Compensation Corporation. "In Louisiana, cold temperature extremes are uncommon but should be treated with the same respect as we treat heat extremes in the summer."
Sensible dress is the best way to fend off the threats of frostnip, frostbite and even hypothermia, which occurs when the body's core temperature dips below normal. Here are five ideas to keep in mind:
- Dress in layers of loose clothes. It is best to wear cotton or wool in the layers closest to the skin. The desire for a loose fit allows for the collection of warm air near the body. The top layer should be waterproof.
- Cover hands, feet, face and head. Considering that these areas are the most vulnerable, make sure they are covered properly. Remember, you can lose 40 percent of body heat through the head so a hat is critical.
- Stay dry. Change immediately or dry off as soon as possible if clothes get wet.
- Keep moving. If you have to be out in the cold, make it a point to always be moving so that blood is circulating to all parts of the body.
- Take breaks often. If you have to be in the cold, make sure to take breaks in warm areas, especially if you start to feel numbness take hold in any part of your body. Drink something warm, but not anything containing alcohol or caffeine because both promote dehydration and increase the risk of hypothermia.
It is common to use various heaters to try to keep a work area warm. But be mindful of the risks that this brings.
- It is best never to use propane or kerosene intended for outdoor use inside a building, garage or small enclosed area.
- Even when using the correct gas- or propane-burning heaters indoors, watch for symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, including nausea, lightheadedness and headaches.
- And it is best that all heating appliances be checked and serviced annually by a professional.