Tips to preventing and treating frostbite

2:02 PM, Dec 4, 2013   |    comments
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KUSA - With this sudden drop in our temperatures comes an increased risk of both frostbite and hypothermia. Your best defense against these is to understand and look for the warning signs that signal cold weather problems.

When your body temperature drops below normal it can get to a point where it's colder than you can handle on your own. That usually means you start shivering whether you want to or not. This is your body's way of trying to warm itself up. But if you notice yourself with a nonstop shiver - that means it's time to seek shelter. Other symptoms of hypothermia include confusion, sleepiness and slurred speech.

When it comes to frostbite, you may first notice a feeling of pins and needles, especially on exposed areas of the body. The skin may start to turn pale and become numb. If it gets more severe that area will turn waxy and hard to the touch. The areas of your body at the highest risk of getting frostbite are usually those most exposed and far from your heart. That means your fingers, toes, nose tip, earlobes, and cheeks are most at risk. One reason is because they are more exposed to the cold. The other is because blood circulation to some of these areas isn't that good to begin with, and tends to get worse when you get cold.

On top of this, using tobacco, both cigarettes and chew, can cut down on this circulation, putting you at a bigger risk of getting frostbite.

Alcohol is another thing to avoid if you'll be out in the cold weather. It can stop your shivering and make hypothermia worse. It can also interfere with circulation, making frostbite worse as well. On top of that alcohol can cause someone to not notice the early signs and symptoms of frostbite and prolong their exposure to the cold.

If you notice any of these symptoms get to a warm place as soon as possible. Seek medical help if you notice any paleness, hardness to the skin or blistering. And of course, preventing it in the first place by protecting yourself from the cold is an even better idea. Prevention includes limiting the time you are out in the cold. Layering in warm clothes, hat and gloves can also protect you. But make sure the layer nearest your skin is made of a material that will allow any sweat you might build up to easily wick away.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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