Preventing frostbite in frosty temperatures
MADISON, Wis. — It seems when the mercury drops below freezing, it doesn’t matter how many layers you’re wearing. It’s still cold. Temperatures this weekend will be warmer, but still bitter. That means when you step outside, exposed skin is at risk of frostbite.
“Especially if there’s a lot of wind. That cold wind is especially risky for frostbite happening within minutes,” Dr. Apple Bodemer, dermatologist at UW Health, said.
Bodemer said your skin will start to feel tingly when frostbite is setting in, so move to a warm place and take of any wet clothing.
“Initially, it will look red and then progress to a white, waxy, firm texture to the skin. And as it progresses further, it can actually become numb.
If you think you might have frostbite, Bodemer said it’s important to warm up at relatively low temperatures. For example, hold your hand under your armpit to slowly return it to body temperature.
Frostbite causes ice crystals to form in and around cells and they can block blood flow. If you rewarm those too quickly, Bodemer said they can explode and cause more damage.
She recommends steering clear of cigarettes and alcohol. Smoking can restrict blood flow to your fingers, nose, toes and ears. Alcohol can cause you to lose heat too quickly.
“The other thing that alcohol can do is alter our perception, so we’re not paying as close attention to what’s going on around us and we might not make as good decisions about how to keep ourselves safe,” Bodemer said.
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