For many of us in North America, this winter may go down as one of the coldest on record. This week brings another bone chilling blast of Arctic air as far South as Texas and Florida. Wind chills are expected to drop as low as -40°F in parts of the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin. These freezing temps can be extremely dangerous and we have a few suggestions to keep you safe from frostbite.
Frostbite is a medical condition where skin and other bodily tissue are damaged due to freezing. When the temperature drops below 32°F (0°C) blood vessels will constrict near the skin. This is your body’s natural reaction to keep your vital organs from getting too cold. As you are exposed to colder temperatures and wind the body will restrict blood flow to certain areas. Fingers, toes, and ears are the most susceptible to frostbite. They are located the farthest from your heart and are considered the least vital appendages to maintain your survival.
Early signs of frostbite are itching, pain, and numbing sensations followed by white, red, and yellow colorations of the skin. It is rare that these symptoms will cause permanent damage, as only the top layers of skin are affected.
If the skin is exposed to the cold long enough, it will freeze and harden but the tissue under the skin will remain intact. This will typically cause blisters after a couple days that become hard and black but should heal within a few weeks.
Major damage to your appendages will occur when the deep tissue freezes under the skin. In extreme cases of frostbite the muscles, blood vessels, and nerves can all freeze. The skin will feel hard and waxy and use of the affected area will be lost. The damaged areas can become infected or will most likely fall off or need to be amputated by a doctor.
To prevent frostbite always use warm dry clothing such as socks, gloves, and hats. If you are unable to seek shelter put your hands under your armpits to warm them. Never rub skin that may have been frostbitten as this may further damage the tissue. Use warm (not hot!) water or a blanket to gradually warm frostbitten areas. Never use a stove, furnace, or heating pad to warm the skin as it might be too hot and burn the numb skin.
Frostbite is a very serious issue during these cold winter months. With wind chills reaching as low as -50°F to -60°F skin can freeze in as little as 10 minutes! Make sure to take precautions when heading outside and always contact a doctor if you believe you have been frost bitten.
Thank you for your time and attention. Let’s make it safe this Monday.
Sales Coordinator, Lift’n Buddy, a Southworth Company