Frigid temperatures increase frostbite concerns

The conditions are likely to get even worse before the week is out

Cold weather generic
FILE (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Don’t let the bright sunshine and blue skies fool you. We are seeing some of the coldest weather of the season, so far.

The conditions are likely to get even worse before the week is out, meaning there’s a greater risk of developing frostbite.

Fingers, toes, nose, ears and cheeks are the first at risk, and children seem more susceptible than adults.

“I think they are less likely to identify to those first stages of frostbite and may continue to sort of play and have fun in spite of those first initial steps,” said Dr. Therese Linnon with Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley.

There are three stages of frostbite:

  • Frostnip: The early stage or frostnip usually causes symptoms of pins and needles, tingling, throbbing, aching or numbness. It does not cause permanent damage to the skin and can be easily treated by re-warming the skin.
  • Superficial frostbite: Skin may be soft and hard and there might be ice crystals that form on the skin. Re-warming is the treatment, although it could cause your skin to turn purple, mottled and appear swollen. You should see a doctor to prevent any permanent damage.
  • Severe frostbite: All layers of the skin are affected and severe tissue damage can happen. Skin will appear white or blue. Large blisters will form after re-warming. Severe tissue damage will likely happen. Medical treatment is necessary.
    Children seem most prone to frostnip.

Doctors say the key to prevention is loose-fitting layers, especially with the kids.

“Dress them in one additional layer than what their parents or guardians are wearing and make sure all the areas of skin that are exposed are covered,” Linnon said.

Linnon said the figure to keep in mind is -15 degrees, regardless of whether that’s the actual temperature or the wind chill effect on your skin.

It is also a good idea to avoid having too much to drink.

“Alcohol itself causes basil dilation or allows you to lose more heat more quickly, so you are more susceptible,” said Dr. Jay Bernstein, Northside Regional Medical Center.

A person who’s had frostbite may recover completely. However, some people may be left with increased sensitivity to cold, numbness, loss of touch and lasting pain in the frostbitten areas.

Editor’s note: Dr. Jay Bernstein was misidentified in the video as a doctor at St. Elizabeth Health Center. He actually works at Northside Regional Medical Center. WKBN regrets the error.


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