I am having a difficult time fathoming how less then two weeks ago I had to shovel several centimeters of wet & heavy snow from my driveway compared to my walking the dog this morning with my spring coat and green all around me.  What a weird winter, eh?  To cap it all off, our clocks leap forward this Sunday at 2am.  The days only get longer and warmer from here on in… I might even get away with swapping out my vehicle’s winter tires shortly.

This whole moment of nostalgia and reminiscing reminds me of a constant type of medical emergency facing people: environmental emergencies.  In short, your body being too hot or too cold.  Your body is rather fussy about its internal temperature.  It’s just one aspect of your body’s lifelong process of trying to maintain “homeostasis”, defined as “the tendency of a body system to maintain internal stability, owing to the coordinated response of its parts to any situation or stimulus that would tend to disturb its normal condition or function.”  In other words, when internal or external stimuli alter our body’s “optimal” environment, the body will automatically use different tools at its disposal to eliminate the effect of that stimuli and return the body back to it’s optimal environment.

The trick with heat and cold emergencies is that they can happen any time of year and in any environment.  It’s not a matter of what’s happening around your body.  What matters is the effect the stimuli are causing within your body.  For example, you can die from heat stroke in the middle of winter, just as you can die from hypothermia in the middle of a tropical summer.  Here are a couple of basic tips to help protect yourself from these stimuli:

  1. Wear appropriate clothing for your activity
  2. Keep hydrated, but do not drink caffeine or alcohol
  3. Take frequent breaks if you start to feel too hot or tired

This is just a little part of the chapter “environmental emergencies” that is taught in our Standard First Aid course.  Sign up for one of our courses and learn more about this constant risk we face and how to prevent it, or if worse goes to worse, how to respond to it.