New avalanche guidelines
The Wilderness Medical Society has issued new practice guidelines to help medical professionals and the public in the event of an avalanche. The new guidelines are published in the journal Wilderness & Environmental Medicine. The researchers focused on developing evidence based recommendations for 3 main aspects of avalanche and snow burial accidents, prevention and rescue.
The guidelines address prevention, recommending that individuals educate themselves about avalanche forecasting and avoidance. If an avalanche occurs, the guidelines recommend trying to avoid being caught and buried by moving snow. Covering the face and mouth as asphyxia is the most common cause of mortality in avalanche victims accounting for 75% of deaths. Asphyxiation can occur via 3 mechanisms, inhaled snow or other debris, water vapour freezing forming an ice mask over the airways and oxygen deprivation caused by re breathing exhaled air.
If a person is unable to avoid being caught by moving snow they should attempt to jettison skis, snowboards or snowshoes as these may cause someone to be buried deeper than someone without attached impediments. Helmets are essential as they help avoid head trauma. An avalanche airbag or artificial air pocket device is recommended and a general knowledge of first aid and resuscitation skills are essential. The foundation of avalanche safety is avoidance of high risk avalanche prone areas.
About the journal: Wilderness & Environmental Medicine is the official journal of the Wilderness Medical Society, a leading journal for physicians practicing in austere environments.