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Your Healthy Family: Stay safe in bitter cold temperatures - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Your Healthy Family: Stay safe in bitter cold temperatures

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Frostbite most commonly affects areas that stick out, like the fingers, nose, toes and face. Frostbite most commonly affects areas that stick out, like the fingers, nose, toes and face.
COLORADO SPRINGS -

The first big chill of the winter season can feel especially brutal, as we have been feeling in southern Colorado.

When the weather takes a sharp turn for the colder, it can be easy for us to get caught out of practice with our winter preparedness.

According to Dr. Tom Waters, M.D., an emergency department physician at Cleveland Clinic, preparation is vital when it comes to preventing very serious cold-related injuries.

“Prevention is the key for both hypothermia and frostbite,” said Dr. Waters. “You need to make sure you wear appropriate clothing; stay dry; keep covered up; keep your extremities covered. Also, cover your face when it’s very cold out.”

Hypothermia occurs when the body begins to lose heat and body temperature gets dangerously low.

Dr. Waters said when left untreated, a person suffering from hypothermia will get colder and colder until their body starts to shut down and eventually their heart will stop beating.

Signs of hypothermia go beyond typical shivering and can include a person stumbling, acting confused, or not making sense when they talk.

If a person begins to show these symptoms, Dr. Waters said to bring them indoors right away and call 9-1-1.

Frostbite happens when the soft tissues of the skin begin to freeze.  To prevent frostbite It's important to cover up skin, simply because of how wind chill works say's meteorologist Sam Shcreier.  "Wind chill works kind of like cooling down hot soup.  When we blow across the top of the soup to cool it, it’s like the wind moving across our warm skin and cools it more than the temperature outside.  If it’s in the low teens and you add in a 5-10 mph wind it's going to feel closer to zero on your skin, increasing the risk of frostbite."


Frostbite most commonly affects areas that stick out, like the fingers, nose, toes and face.

Signs of frostbite include pain and discoloration of the skin.

Dr. Waters said that often, frost bite damage is more severe than it first appears, and if it?s bad enough, it can result in the loss of extremities.

The extent of frostbite damage depends on the temperature and how long someone is exposed.

When it comes to avoiding both hypothermia and frostbite, Dr. Waters said  it’s important not only to stay warm, but to also stay dry.

“Water, or being wet, is very dangerous. It conducts heat 30 times faster than air,” said Dr. Waters. “Once you get wet, you’re really susceptible to either a hypothermia injury or a frostbite injury.”

Dr. Waters said the very young, the very old, those with chronic illness, and those who spend a lot of time outdoors are most at risk for both hypothermia and frostbite.


With cold conditions back in the forecast, it's important to take precautions and understand the terminology used when temperatures fall below freezing.

A Wind chill is how it feels outside, not how cold it actually is.

Low wind chills mean that it can be dangerous to be outside, especially for a long time. Wind chill can be determined based on the actual air temperature and how strong the winds outside are.

Frostbite, the freezing of skin and tissue beneath it, can also be a danger when temperatures fall below freezing. It can also happen sooner than you'd think.

When there is a temperature of zero and winds of 15 miles per hour, frostbite can happen in as little as 30 minutes to exposed areas of the body. The human body works to preserve vital functions first, while fingers and toes and other areas with limited circulation are at risk of frostbite first.

Hypothermia occurs when your body temperature becomes dangerously low and it is the most common winter weather killer. Dying of exposure basically means dying of hypothermia. Deaths from hypothermia can occur when temperatures are between 30 and 50 degrees, so it’s something to take seriously.

Protect yourself from cold weather by:

  • Staying dry. This will help your body hold onto more heat
  • Staying covered. Wear coats, gloves, and hats. Half of your body head can be lost through an uncovered head
  • Wearing layers. Air between layer helps insulate the body.
  • Minimize outdoor exposure on very cold days.

Also keep pets in mind when it gets cold outside. If it's too cold outside for you, it's probably too cold for them to be outside very long.

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