While the snow hasn't arrived in the lower elevations of Colorado just yet, the cold temperatures certainly have. Dr. Ian Tullberg is the Urgent Care Medical Director with UCHealth Memorial says that while anyone is at risk of frostbite if they leave skin exposed to cold for extended periods of time, there are groups that are most at risk.
"We have a significant homeless population here in Colorado Springs, and they are at risk. Folks that smoke are at a greater risk because of the problems that smoking causes to the blood vessels, it just crimps them a little bit down by the fingers and toes. Your nose, chin and cheeks are also common places to get frostbite. People that work outside are also at risk of frostbite."
So how can you tell if your skin is just cold or if you have developed frostbite? Dr. Tullberg says the early warning signs are pretty clear.
"You will start looking like a patriot, red white and blue are the bad colors when it comes to frostbite. You can also see some grey again those areas that I mentioned. You want to get those areas warm before that happens. Problem is you might get some tingling and numbing in those areas so folks that get frostbite don't realize they are getting frostbite because they don't feel anything because the nerves are completely numb and dead."
Dr. Tullberg also says frost bite can be very difficult to treat after serious damage is done, but treatment should be sought.
"Normally once someone comes into an Emergency Room, or Urgent Care unfortunately you can't treat it too well. Usually we will see folks a day later, and things have already warmed up you can't to a whole lot to it. If there is substantial frostbite the E.R. is a good way to get going with your medical care. If you get sever enough frostbite, you are going to get some blisters the next day in those area of the body and those areas can die. They will start becoming black because they have zero blood flow, and start separating themselves from the rest of the body. It’s basically a form of auto amputation. Your body will break off that part that is just not working. Other times you do need to see a surgeon and get that surgically removed and unfortunately fingers toes are the big thing."
Remember the best time to treat frostbite, is before it happens. If you're outside and your fingers and toes start getting cold and numb, don't wait to take steps to warm them up however you can.