WASHINGTON — Nationals Park will be packed on New Year’s Day — not for baseball, of course, but for the National Hockey League’s Winter Classic.
It’s one thing to go to the park for baseball on a warm summer’s day, but quite another to take in some hockey in the dead of winter.
“It will be cold and there are several things people need to be alert to preventing. One is frostbite and the other is hypothermia,” says Mary Jean Schumann, an interim dean and assistant professor at the George Washington University School of Nursing.
Schumann knows her stuff. She is a soccer player from Wisconsin with a daughter who trains for triathlons. Between the two of them, they have experienced the dangers that can occur from prolonged exposure to the cold.
She says the key to protecting yourself from frostbite is to dress in layers. The innermost layer should be made of a wicking fabric that keeps moisture away from the skin, while the outer layer should be made of a tightly woven fabric that can block both wind and wet.
The multiple layers rule also goes for hands and feet.
“I like to wear two layers of gloves and mittens if I am going to be outside at an event like this,” says Schumann, “and at least two layers of socks.”
Special precautions are needed for kids, who are less aware of how much they are exposing their skin to the cold.
“You really have to make sure you have supervised all those layers they are putting on,” Schumann suggests.
Also, she urges parents to leave any children below school age at home because they can’t articulate how cold they really are.
Anyone who starts shivering — be they child or adult — should get out of frigid temps immediately. Shivering is the first clue that someone may be at risk for hypothermia.
“If they start to slur their speech, or they are not making sense in what they say to you, if they seem like they are confused or they are tired, their hands are trembling, they have lost their dexterity — those are all signs that they are getting hypothermic and they need to have someone do something quickly,” Schumann says.
She says anyone showing those symptoms needs to go to a first aid station at the park to get warmed up and have their temperature taken. Anything below 96 qualities as a medical emergency.
Schumann says it’s nothing to play around with.
“I have a daughter who was doing a triathlon, getting chilled on a very cold wet day, and was out on a bike on the side of the road and was starting to get confused and disoriented,” she remembers.
Emergency crews arrived just in time, and gave the triathlete treatment in an ambulance. Even after that, it took several hours of medical care before she was back to normal.