Doctors warn about frostbite, hypothermia risk over next seven days

MADISON, Wis. – Doctors are warning about the dangers extreme cold could present over the next several days.

“Typically, when you see the temperatures get this cold, you do start to see a few more cases of frostbite,” said Dr. Jeff Pothof, Chief Quality Officer at UW Health. “People who don’t have the ability to seek shelter and are out there in the cold and trying to do the best they can, but with these temperatures it’s hard to do that well.”

Pothof said when temperatures reach near zero degrees, frostbite can occur in as little as 15-20 minutes. On Saturday night, wind chill temperatures are expected to reach -20 to -35 degrees.

“You think you’re doing something that’s fairly safe. Certainly when it’s 30 degrees outside, it is safe. Now, it’s 40 below, and you find yourself in a little bit of trouble,” Pothof said. “Your ears are numb, your fingers are numb, you cant feel your feet. Those are some of those early warning signs that you’re heading towards frostbite.”

At Tenney Park Friday afternoon, skaters layered up to brave the cold.

“I dress in layers,” said John Bloodgood.  “But the best way to stay warm when you’re outside is to keep moving. Get that blood circulating. Just don’t fall down.”

“I wear two pairs of socks,” said Brendan Kielczewski. “Gloves and hat are definitely required.”

Fingers, ears and toes beginning to feel numb is a warning indicator for frostbite, Pothof said.

“When it’s really cold, the period of time between when I first start to feel things going numb to when I’m starting to lose color and my tissues are freezing, that does real damage, it’s much shorter,” he said.

“Don’t feel uncomfortable wearing as many pieces of clothing as you need,” Kielczewski said. “Definitely as many pieces of clothing as you can. None of us look that pretty out here when it’s cold, so you don’t have to worry about that either.”