Frostbite Symptoms and Prevention

The top story on the CNN website reads as follows:

A bone-chilling Arctic cold wave with temperatures as low as 42 below zero shut down schools for thousands of youngsters Monday, halted some Amtrak service and put car batteries on the disabled list from the northern Plains across the Great Lakes.

My company has a walking challenge with a local elementary school in Lewiston. The kids are inside all week, which helps the adults catch up. Coast to coast it is long awaited bone chilling weather. The 2007 Farmers’ Almanac has an article on Frostbite and Hypothermia, which I am reproducing below. The cold can be a killer. Dress in layers and be careful going outside.

What are Frostbite and Hypothermia?

Frostbite is a severe reaction to cold exposure that can permanently damage its victims. A loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in fingers, toes, or nose and ear lobes are symptoms of frostbite.

Hypothermia is a condition brought on when the body temperature drops to less than 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, slow speech, memory lapses, frequent stumbling, drowsiness, and exhaustion.

If frostbite or hypothermia is suspected, begin warming the person slowly and seek immediate medical assistance. Warm the person’s trunk first. Use your own body heat to help. Arms and legs should be warmed last because stimulation of the limbs can drive cold blood toward the heart and lead to heart failure. Put the person in dry clothing and wrap their entire body in a blanket. Never give a frostbite or hypothermia victim something with caffeine in it (like coffee or tea) or alcohol. Caffeine, a stimulant, can cause the heart to beat faster and hasten the effects the cold has on the body. Alcohol, a depressant, can slow the heart and also hasten the ill effects of cold body temperatures.

Information courtesy of FEMA.

What are the symptoms of frostbite?

Frostbite happens when the skin and the tissues underneath it actually freeze. Winds and cold temperatures are the culprits, as well as not dressing properly for the cold outdoors. Frostbite affects children more than adults, as children lose more heat through their skin. The first symptom of frostbite, called frostnip, is the least severe form, and usually leaves the skin feeling numb and looking white. Cheeks, noses, and ears are most frequently frostnipped. When the skin thaws or warms, the affected area will become red and painful. With even more severe frostbite, the skin may appear white and feel very numb, meaning that the tissue has started to freeze. Very severe frostbite may cause blisters and damage to structures, such as tendons, muscles, and bone.

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Farmers' Almanac - Weather forecasting
Peter Geiger

Peter Geiger is the Editor of the Farmers' Almanac. Read his full biography.

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