By Chuck Nottingham
Last Saturday, volunteer instructors conducted Havre's first hunter education field trials of 2000.
Hunter and outdoor safety is a community effort sponsored by Fish, Wildlife & Parks and Havre Rifle & Pistol Club, with several supporters including MSU-Northern, Northern Montana Health Care, Assembly of God Church, BNSF Railroad, Sinclair E-Fish-Hunt Sports, Bing n' Bob's, and Kafka Game Ranch.
The day was cold!
Participants ranged in age from 7 to 40-something. Each braved two hours of raw elements, but instructors took the cold in excess of five hours, most heading home in early stages of frostbite and hypothermia.
Since Punxsutawny Phil and his Montana cousin, Monty the Marmot, saw their shadows February 2, poxing us with six more cold weeks, we should pay attention to both cold maladies.
According to American Red Cross, we can forget rubbing frost-bitten skin with snow - or anything else. Frozen skin cells are particularly vulnerable to friction damage.
Instead first aid is to warm frosted extremities - fingers, toes, noses, ears - with someone's warm skin, such as stomach or upper arms. Body-warmed cloth is good, too.
Also don't dunk extremities in cold water, or the problem will worsen. However, soaking in nice warm water 100 to 105 degrees will help. For second and third degree frostbite, bandage as burns and seek medical help.
Hypothermia is the lowering of body temperature until function is dangerously impaired. The condition is accelerated by wet skin from immersion or sweat. Impairment usually includes irritability or illogical decisions. You have to think for the victim and take firm action:
1. Remove the victim from cold or wind conditions.
2. Remove all wet clothing and replace with pre-warmed dry clothing or a pre-warmed sleeping bag.
3. Never warm hands and feet first. Recirculation of very cold blood from frozen extremities to an already chilled body core may cause the victim to worsen and die.
4. Instead, warm the body core by warming the victim's head, neck, torso, and groin areas so internal heat builds to the extremities.
5. Monitor breathing and be prepared to give CPR.
6. Transport to a medical facility for evaluation.
Havre's next hunter education class is April 3-15 more than six weeks off, and winter will be officially over. But you can bet Montana reserves a few spring days for plunging temperatures, so your next frostbite and hypothermia victim may be yours truly.
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