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It’s Dangerously Cold: Here’s How To Stay Safe, Avoid Frostbite

January 6, 2018

Anyone tired of it feeling like the North Pole yet? Well get used to it, because wind chills today will be below zero again. All day. All night. Frostbite can happen fast in this kind of weather. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons says it only takes minutes for exposed skin to become frostbitten if the temperature is below 20 F and the wind is blowing at 20 mph or more. The elderly and children are particularly susceptible to frostbite as well as those with circulation problems, including diabetics. So take these steps from the AAO to prevent and identify frostbite and keep you and your family safe: • Dress in multiple light, loose, layered clothes that provide both ventilation and insulation. Protect your head, hands and feet. • A hat or other head covering is crucial since substantial heat loss occurs through the scalp. • If you plan on being out in the cold for a prolonged period, don’t drink or smoke. Alcohol, caffeine and nicotine leave the skin more prone to thermal injury. • If you get wet, get inside immediately. • If your toes, fingers, ears or other body parts feel numb, get inside. • You may have frostbite if the affected area becomes numb, feels frozen, but deeper tissues are soft (superficial frostbite) or the entire affected area feels solid, hard, and frozen (deep frostbite). Skin can also appear waxy, white, or grayish. • If you do get frostbite, the best ways to treat it are: get into a warm room as quickly as possible, get medical assistance, drink warm broth or tea, rest injured areas, and warm the injured area by immersing in warm water (not hot water) for at least 30 to 45 minutes, or until the affected part feels warm and sensation returns. During warming, the patient may complain of severe pain and the injured area may swell and change color. Don’t use dry heat, such as from a heating pad, sunlamp, fire or radiator, to try to warm the area because the skin is numb and will not feel the heat and can burned by the dry heat. FROSTBITE CHART How does it really feel outside? The National Weather Service has a wind chill calculator that can help you figure out how cold it feels outside when the wind is blowing: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/cold/wind_chill.shtml