15 of the Worst Things to Do If You’re Stranded in the Cold

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH In 2002, a couple of years after he won the Olympic gold medal in wrestling, Rulon Gardner went snowmobiling in Wyoming. “I told myself it would be a short trip,” he told the Associated Press. “We were going to go out about three hours and get home for dinner.” But he got lost and ended up stranded for 17 hours. The temperature reached as low as 25 below zero, according to the AP. […]

By | February 23rd, 2015|Cold, Weather|11 Comments

The Top 10 Most Popular Winter-Safety Posts of the Year

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH Here in Colorado, we’ve already had some really cold days and then some sneaky mild ones. Sneaky because I get all comfortable going out with a light jacket one day; the next, the sky is clear, and it looks the same—from the inside. I walk out, and bam, it’s biting cold. Or the day is pretty mild and the night is freezing. Winter is upon us, and I have this sneaky feeling it’s going to get colder before it gets warmer.  So I went back and reviewed my previous posts for winter safety tips (hey, sometimes even I don’t remember every detail I’ve written). And below I’ve linked to the 10 most popular ones for 2014. Even if you’ve read them, I’d suggest you, like me, could benefit from a review, to get you ready for the upcoming cold. And even if you live in a warm climate, check out number eight for sure. […]

By | December 16th, 2014|Cold, Weather|3 Comments

Two Days in Sub-Zero Weather: How These Adults and Kids Survived—Well

An in-the-news extra post for the week. by James Hubbard, MD, MPH A man, a woman, and four children survived in the Nevada mountains for 48 hours in an overturned car that wouldn’t start (no heater). The temperature got down to well below zero … and they came away with only mild hypothermia. Of course, when things like that happen, I always try to find some takeaway lessons, and this situation has some good ones: […]

By | December 12th, 2013|Cold, Weather|40 Comments

How Drowning in Cold Water Can Save Your Life

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Real case. A doctor falls through an ice hole while cross-country skiing. They find her body many yards away. It’s been under the ice for over an hour. She is resuscitated. After the ICU, she spends many months in rehab, but in a year she’s back to practicing medicine. A snowmobile accident submerges a man in icy water for an hour. He lives, with no apparent brain damage. It’s rare, but it happens. In normal circumstances the brain can’t go without new oxygen for over six minutes without developing significant damage. How can some people survive an hour of total submersion–seemingly drowned in cold water? Part of the answer is that the rapid cooling can trigger the mammalian dive reflex. […]

By | January 26th, 2012|Cold, Weather|6 Comments

Video: How to Get Yourself Out of a Hole–Ice Hole, That Is

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. In my post "How to Survive If You Fall Into Cold Water," I wrote about what to do if you fall through the ice. My second-born, Beth Nelson—a paramedic in Alaska—sent [...]

By | January 24th, 2012|Cold, Videos, Weather|1 Comment

How to Survive If You Fall Into Cold Water

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. A few days ago, in a nearby town, a man in his forties drowned. Apparently he was chasing his dog, and they fell through the ice. He got the dog out but not himself. Horrible And, although I don’t know any details, it makes me think of the many deaths like this that are preventable. Of course there’s the obvious: Don’t walk on thin ice. The weather’s been pretty warm here in Colorado, and the ice on the ponds is never very thick anyway. But, according to one article I read, our firemen and rescuers spend a fair amount of time chasing people off iced ponds. So what can you do if you or someone else takes an accidental plunge? It helps to know what happens when you fall into cold water. […]

By | January 19th, 2012|Cold, Weather|7 Comments

Hypothermia Treatment, Part Two: How to Treat an Unconscious Person

Fifth of a five-part series about low body temperature. by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. These days it’s not unusual to hear of someone found in the cold, considered dead, who’s then revived. Someone knew how to treat severe hypothermia and didn’t give up. The saying goes, “They’re not dead until they’re warm and dead.” Even so, not everyone is revivable. Most aren’t. Many’s heart just won’t restart, or they may have died from something else and then got cold. But unless you know the cause of death, or you’re not going to be able to warm them up within the next hour or two, keep trying to help the person. […]

By | January 10th, 2012|Cold, Weather|10 Comments

Hypothermia Treatment, Part One: How to Treat a Conscious Person

Fourth of a five-part series about low body temperature. by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. You’re on a hike. The temperature is in the 50s, and it’s a little windy. You slip and fall in a stream, get your pants wet. You start shivering. Your target location’s only half a mile away. Besides, a little cold never hurt anyone. I mean, it’s in the 50s. If you’ve been reading this series on hypothermia, you know that’s not true. You need to head for home or your campsite and get out of those wet clothes. Do it right away because your next symptom could be confusion. Then you’re wandering, lost, getting colder by the minute. Maybe eat something to give your body a little extra fuel to keep generating that heat until you get there. But what if you’re farther away or you’re already getting too cold? Or you’re inside, but there’s inadequate heat? […]

By | January 5th, 2012|Cold, Weather|13 Comments

Symptoms of Hypothermia, or Why You Might Strip in the Snow

Third of a five-part series about low body temperature. by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. In part one of this series about low body temperature, I gave a scenario about staying out in the cold a little too long and becoming nauseous. In the story, the person thinks the problem is an empty stomach. But he’d better watch out. The first symptoms of a low body temperature are often hunger, nausea, and fatigue. Pretty general. And the next thing you know, you’re getting confused. If you’re mentally impaired by drugs, alcohol, disease, or other reasons, you may not even notice there’s a problem. So if it’s below 50 degrees, or you or someone else has other risk factors for low body temperature, be on the watch for symptoms. […]

By | January 3rd, 2012|Cold, Weather|10 Comments

When 50 Degrees Is Too Cold: Causes of Low Body Temperature

Second of a five-part series about low body temperature. by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. You’d think a cold, snowy mountain would be the setting for most deaths from low body temperature (hypothermia). But that’s not the case. Most people die in urban areas—many inside. In fact, almost every year there are deaths in Florida—sometimes even Hawaii. There must be something besides cold weather that can cause a low body temperature. There is. […]

By | December 27th, 2011|Cold, Weather|10 Comments