What to do and how to prevent frostbite as temperatures drop

Published: Jan. 29, 2022 at 1:52 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Dipping temperatures and cold air can easily freeze unprotected skin, increasing the risk for frostbite.

“When the body is exposed to extreme cold, the blood recirculates towards the trunk and the inner organs because those are the most important to keep warm, to keep oxygenated for life,” Family Medicine Physician Dr. Donald Ford said. “So in order to stay alive, the body prefers sending the warm blood to the inner organs.”

Ford said that extremities like your fingers, toes, nose and ears are at risk to frostbite since they receive less blood flow.

To help prevent frostbite, Ford said to avoid getting skin wet when outdoors and to bundle up, wearing waterproof clothing.

When skin and parts of the body begin to feel numb and cold, it is best to warm up slowly indoors.

“You want to get into a warm tub or put your hands in a warm pot of water,” Ford said. “It should be warm and not hot. Hot water, when there is no circulation or no nerve sensation, you can actually burn the skin on top of a frostbite.”

The CDC said other signs of frostbite include a white or grayish-yellow skin area. Frostbite can also make the skin feel unusually firm or waxy.

If someone experiences signs of frostbite, Ford advises to seek medical care.

Hypothermia is a more serious condition that requires immediate emergency medical care.

These warning signs and symptoms include include shivering, confusion, slurred speech and drowsiness.

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