As temps plummet, docs warn against frostbite, hypothermia

Symptoms can occur within minutes
As temps plummet, docs warn against frostbite, hypothermia


Most of us have stayed outside perhaps a bit too long on occasion during a long Wisconsin winter.

But with temperatures dropping in Wisconsin, frostbite and hypothermia can happen quickly, and should be major concerns for anyone having to venture outside.

After all, you can start getting frostbite within just minutes.

But what causes these conditions?

UW doctor Janis Tupesis knows what happens to your body when it gets dangerously cold, and it isn’t good.

Starting with frostbite, Dr. Tupesis says it can be dangerous and even downright painful.

“The fluid inside your cells begins to crystallize and forms ice crystals and that’s when you start getting damage to your tissues,” said Tupesis.

But frostbite isn’t the only winter weather worry.

According to the Center for Disease Control, on average around 1,300 people die each year from overexposure and hypothermia.

“Your body is trying to protect your inner organs, right? So, it’s trying to shunt blood to your inner organs,” said Dr. Tupesis of how hypothermia occurs.

Doctors often say the biggest problem with overexposure is that most people don’t know it’s happening. And when they do realize it, it’s often too late.

So what symptoms should trigger concern?

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, symptoms like shivering, confusion, mumbling, and drowsiness are all signs of hypothermia, and anyone experiencing those symptoms nees to get someplace warm as soon as possible.

And for those brave or foolish enough to brave the worst of Wisconsin winter weather, Dr. Tupesis has one last tip.

“You don’t want to be ice fishing by yourself,” said Dr. Tupesis. “You don’t want to be going to the Packer game by yourself. You just want to make sure there’s somebody that can kind of help you out if you get caught in a bad situation.”

Doctors also say slow, deliberate warming is the best way to cure frostbite and mild hypothermia.

Skin-to-skin warming or warm blankets are the best ways to recover, while drinking alcohol could actually make symptoms worse.