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Hypothermia, frostbite, and trench foot are the most common types of cold stress. When the body can no longer maintain core temperature, it shivers to compensate for the lost heat. Shivering reaches a maximum when the core temperature falls to 95 degrees F. Without another heat source to warm the body, hypothermia is possible. Severe hypothermia is likely when the core temperature drops below 86 degrees F. Frostbite occurs when layers of skin tissue freeze; trench foot is possible when feet are immersed in cold water for long periods of time – it’s similar to frostbite, but generally less severe.
Cold temperatures, wind, dampness, and cold water are the key factors that increase the risk of cold stress. Wind chill refers to the rate of heat loss resulting from the combined effect of low air temperature and wind.
Planning cold weather work and dressing appropriately are the most important ways to prevent cold stress.
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Learn more about hypothermia, frostbite, and wind chill from Oregon OSHA’s cold stress card
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