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The Ultimate First-Aid Manual: Environmental Threats

As much as we try to protect ourselves from extreme elements, sometimes the elements hedge even our greatest efforts. Here's what to do when Mother Nature wins.

Snowblindness
Recognize Redness, tearing, and a sandpapery pain when opening or moving the eye are signs of sunburned corneas.

Treat First, don’t let the patient rub his eyes; it could further damage the corneas. Give ibuprofen for the pain, apply a cold compress, and cover eyes with gauze. Wear sunglasses and stay in a dark environment until vision returns to normal (usually in about 18 hours).

Hypothermia
Recognize The person complains of feeling cold and shivers. More advanced hypothermia patients exhibit "the umbles:" stumbling, fumbling, mumbling, and grumbling.

Treat Get the patient into warm, dry clothes and place him in a sheltered area–such as in a sleeping bag, inside of a tent. (Don’t have a tent? Protect him from the elements by wrapping the sleeping bag in a tarp, plastic sheet, or garbage bags.) Give water and simple sugars, such as hot chocolate or candy, to generate quick body heat. For more advanced cases, build a fire nearby and put the patient in a "hypothermia wrap:" Start with a sleeping pad, put a zipped sleeping bag on top, then lay the patient (in a second sleeping bag) on that. Give him a hot-water bottle wrapped in clothing to hold in his hands. Put another sleeping bag on top, then wrap it all, burrito-style, in a tarp or plastic sheet.

VIDEO: Preventing & Treating Hypothermia
Prevent the deep chill by learning how to spot and treat hypothermia in the backcountry.

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