As our Michigan temperatures dip into the teens and lower, not dressing properly or staying in the cold too long can be dangerous. Here are some tips to keep yourself and your family safe during the cold weather season.
“When temperatures are in the teens or lower, be sure to cover all of your extremities,” said Dr. Haidar Al-Saadi, Lakes Urgent Care medical director. “Be aware that the parts of your body farthest away from your heart are most susceptible to frost bite: your ears, nose, fingers, and toes are especially prone to frostbite.”
Dress in layers, keep every part of your body covered and be aware of the first signs of frostbite, which is called frost nip. Frostnip occurs before bite. If you picture your extremities in layers, frostnip happens when the first few layers of tissue are frozen. For frostbite, the entire body part, most commonly fingers and toes, is frozen through and tissue begins to die.
If you suspect frostnip or bite, run the extremity under warm water for 20 minutes. Never use hot water or rub the finger or toes to increase circulation. If, after 20 minutes, there is pain or no feeling at all, it’s time to head to a certified urgent care such as Lakes Urgent Care or the emergency department of your nearest hospital.
Prolonged exposure to cold weather can also lead to hypothermia, which occurs when your body begins to lose heat faster than it’s produced. Your body gives plenty of warning to get warmed up before serious problems set in. “We see hypothermia in our more vulnerable populations such as the elderly, those who are significantly immunocompromised, those with dementia and those with mental illness,” said Dr. Al-Saadi. “Depending on their mental status, they might not know they’re cold, which can lead to hypothermia.”