Amick Robert (amick@SPOT.COLORADO.EDU)
Thu, 28 Mar 1996 14:12:45 -0700
Unlike frostbite (where tissue damage due to freezing can be permanent
and result in impaired circulation to the affected part),
hypothermia (in mild cases described in the post) typically does not
predispose the person to greater susceptibility in the future.
Serious hypothermia is usually defined as an actual reduction of the core
temperature from 98.6 F due to inability of the body to generate heat
fast enough to compensate for the loss of heat.
There are many factors which contribute to chilling, some of which
include dehydration, inadequate nutrition, and the rate of heat loss
occurring. From the description given in the post, the "cold" meeting
room would not have had a "wind chill" factor, but merely cold, still air.
As most Scouters are no doubt aware, "heat" is generated by the
muscles of the body through metabolism of nutrients. The ratio of
heat loss to heat produced is affected by a number of factors, mostly
related to "conservation" through insulating clothing.
Effective preventive measures include refraining from wearing any
clothing which contains cotton, including socks, underwear, shirts, etc.,
due to the moisture retention and "chilling" effect of that fabric. A
huge amount of heat loss occurs due to evaporation
of water retained in cotton clothing. Primary heat loss occurs
from the head and neck area which often are unprotected by insulating
garments, so the old addage of "if your feet and hands are cold, put on a
hat" is very important. Blood circulation compensates to maintain
homeostasis primarily for the brain, and will of course shut down
circulation to extremities to conserve heat for vital organs.
Synthetic fabrics such as polypropylene and high bulk acrylic
do not retain moisture, but rather "wick" it away from the
skin thereby minimizing heat loss; Hence, the popularity of
polypropylene underwear, "polarfleece" polyester sweaters, jackets, and
socks, or "Thorlo" high bulk acrylic socks used widely by skiers,
campers, and outdoor-types. The technology afforded by
synthetic fabrics for insulation, wicking away of body moisture, and
subsequent prevention of heat loss can be used for comfort in everyday
activities such as described in the post, and not just for
outdoor/camping events. Wool also continues to be a good insulating
material because it insulates even when wet and does not retain as much
moisture as cotton, but may cause "itching" for some who are sensitive.
Those who are interested in more in-depth knowledge about medical
treatment protocols for frostbite and hypothermia may
wish to see the State of Alaska protocols on hypothermia available at:
Prevention of hypothermia is well covered in a variety of Scouting
Publications such as the BSA Field Book and other outdoor related
organizations such as the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).
Bob Amick, EMT-B, Exploring Training Chair, Longs Peak Council, Boulder, CO
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City