Working outdoors comes with certain health concerns and safety risks no matter what time of the year it is. Of course, as the days get shorter and colder, you will have to handle cold-related risks even if you do not deal with a lot of snow or ice.
Cold stress on the body can cause numerous injuries and ailments, and each one can potentially put your overall health at risk.
What are cold stress injuries?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration takes a look at the effects of cold stress. In general, cold stress affects the body when exposed to extreme cold or when sustaining prolonged exposure to cold weather.
Hypothermia occurs when your body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures saps your body heat faster than you can create it. Note that you can suffer from hypothermia even in temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. A cool, wet work environment can induce this ailment. You may experience confusion, slurred speech and slowed breathing.
Trench foot and frostbite
Trench foot also occurs in a combination of wet and cold or cool conditions. The temperature can even raise as high as 60 degrees and still result in trench foot. This can cause leg cramps, swelling, redness and tissue damage. It can also lead to hypothermia because you lose heat 25 times faster when your feet are wet.
Frostbite requires cold conditions, though not necessarily wet. Your skin literally freezes if you have frostbite, which can lead to cell death and the possibility of amputation. Those with bad circulation have a higher risk of developing frostbite at earlier stages of exposure. All of these ailments can result in permanent physical health issues and long periods of healing.