Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Peterson Space Observer

Avoiding the mess of cold stress

By Robb Lingley | 21st Space Wing Public Affairs

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. ­— During the winter season in Colorado, weather conditions can drastically change. 21st Security Forces Squadron entry controllers on Peterson Air Force Base need to monitor the weather conditions and dress appropriately to avoid cold stress.

Cold stress is the reduction of skin and core body temperature, exasperated by low air temperature and wind speed.

“You should not go out in the cold without appropriate cold weather gear,” said 2nd Lt. Lara Mason, 21st Bioenvironmental Engineering occupational health element chief. “Also, as supervisors, don’t let your troops go out without proper gear either. Planning for work in cold weather is the most important defense in preventing cold stress.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 700 deaths occur in the U.S. each year from hypothermia. Hypothermia happens when the body temperature drops to 95 degrees Fahrenheit or less and can be fatal if not detected promptly or treated properly.

Signs of hypothermia include:

• Uncontrollable shivering

• Exhaustion

• Confusion, drowsiness

• Memory loss

• Slurred speech

Signs of frostbite include:

• Loss of feeling and color in extremities

• Redness and pain on the skin

• White or greyish-yellow skin area

• Firm or waxy skin

• Numbness

Wearing appropriate clothing and being aware of how your body is reacting to the cold are important in preventing cold stress. Avoiding alcohol, certain medications and smoking can also help to minimize the chances of cold stress.

“Wearing the right clothing is the most important way to avoid cold stress. The type of fabric also makes a difference,” said Mason. “Cotton loses its insulation value when it becomes wet. Wool, on the other hand, retains its insulated qualities even when wet.”

The CDC recommends seeking emergency medical treatment immediately when experiencing any signs of frostbite or hypothermia.

For more information and winter safety tips, visit the CDC website:

Avoiding the mess of cold stress
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