Surviving the Antarctic environment

Antarctica's harsh, cold and windy climate and the hazards of crevasses, sea ice and blizzards result in fewer medical emergencies than might be expected.

Expeditioners are educated about the most commonly experienced hazards associated with working in Antarctica, including injuries resulting from cold temperatures (hypothermia and frostbite), snow and ice-reflected glare (snowblindness) and unseen hazards of warmed, windproofed tents and huts (carbon monoxide poisoning). Training focuses on prevention, stressing adequate cold-condition training, early recognition and treatment of symptoms and the proper use of cold-weather clothing and equipment.

A computerised health register has been recording health events in Antarctic personnel since 1986. This enables the Polar Medicine Unit to compare incident rates with those of the domestic population, to assess temporal, seasonal and occupational trends and to identify high risk groups.