When temperatures reach record lows, like they are right now all over the country, the flu tends to take a backseat while frightening words like “frostbite” or “hypothermia” are unfortunately tossed around. It’s not every day that we experience sub-zero temperatures, but if you live in Michigan that’s exactly what you’re dealing with this month. Your skin isn’t used to dealing with temperatures this extremely frigid, so you have to take the proper steps to keep safe, especially if you have to spend long periods of time outdoors in this brutal weather.
Frostbite occurs when skin or other tissue is frozen due to freezing temperatures or poor circulation. Dressing warm and in layers is a given, but because your fingers, toes, nose, and ears are most vulnerable to frostbite, it’s vital that you wear warm gloves, protect your head with a hat or two, and double up on socks.
The first symptom of frostbite is loss of feeling in the skin. The early stages of frostbite, known as “frostnip,” brings burns and tingling of the skin, which results from the body using blood from deeper inside the body to keep warm, and taking it from extremities to do so. If you must be outside, perhaps to shovel, taking multiple breaks to warm up is not a good idea. Just get it done as quickly as possible and then get inside and crank up the heater. Applying dry, sterilized gauze between fingers and toes can help to remove moisture. If you notice white or grayish-yellow patches of waxy skin on your body, seek medical attention immediately.
Hypothermia is a condition where the core temperature of the body dips below 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius). This is a condition that usually affects the homeless. If you encounter someone who has been exposed to freezing temperatures for very long periods of time and notice them shivering excessively, replacing their wet clothing with dry clothing and covering their head and body in warm blankets can help fight against hypothermia.
Please contact Westland Clinic if you have any medical questions or believe you or someone you know needs treatment.