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Six quick tips to avoid and treat frostbite

Woman bundled up in snow
A woman wearing appropriate attire for frigid temperatures.

With wind chill advisories across most of Michigan, most of us will be experiencing temperatures close to -25 degrees Fahrenheit. While the temperature is expected to increase throughout the day, when it's windy and this cold, your body will start to lose heat faster than it can produce it.

Here are some quick guidelines from the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention about preventing and treating hypothermia and frostbite if you must be outside.

1) Dress appropriately

Your nose, ears, toes, cheeks, chin, and fingers are most susceptible to frostbite, so the CDC recommends ensuring that they're covered in warm, dry clothing. Additionally, they recommend dressing in warm, loose layers, wearing a hat that covers your ears, and a scarf to cover your face and mouth. A water-resistant coat and boots are also recommended.

2) Take precautions if you or someone you know is at a higher risk

This includes babies sleeping in cold rooms; older adults who may not have access to proper food, clothing, or heating; those who are outdoors for long periods of time; and those who drink or use drugs excessively.

3) Know the signs for frostbite

The first sign of frostbite might be redness or pain on any area of skin. Skin that feels firm or waxy, numbness, or an area of skin that's white or grayish in color are other signs of frostbite.

4) Know the signs for hypothermia

Hypothermia occurs at very cold temperatures. In adults, shivering, exhaustion, confusion, memory loss, slurred speech, and drowsiness are all tell-tale signs of hypothermia. Low energy and bright red skin are signs of hypothermia in babies. Seek medical attention immediately if a person's temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

5) What to do if anyone is experience these symptoms

The CDC recommends seeking medical attention as soon as possible. Remove any wet clothing and get to a warm room or shelter where you can be covered with warm blankets and clothing. Fill a bowl with warm-to-touch water and place affected areas inside.

6) What NOT to do

Don't rub or massage areas with frostbite - you can take a pain reliever to help with any pain. Try to not walk if you suspect your feet or toes are experiencing frostbite. It's not recommended to use hot water or heating pads to warm areas - any water should be warm to the touch, but not overly so. If even after attempts to warm up your skin begins turning a grayish color, seek medical attention immediately.

Jodi is Michigan Public's Director of Digital Audiences, leading and developing the station’s overall digital strategy.
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