These temperatures bring up frostbite and hypothermia. The National Weather Service says frostbite happens because your body kicks into survival mode in extremely cold weather. Your body tells itself to protect the vital inner organs, which it does by cutting back on circulation to your extremities: feet, hands, nose, etc. If these parts are exposed to the cold and receive less warming blood flow, they eventually freeze. Experts say some signs of frostbite are numbness, tingling, pain and swelling. When it gets worse you'll have total loss of sensation, pale waxy skin will become dark bluish, and in severe cases, the skin will look burnt and charred.
There are several different degrees of frostbite. The NWS says first degree is when ice crystals form on your skin. Second degree is when your skin starts to feel warm, even though it is not yet defrosted. Third degree is when your skin turns red, pale, or white and fourth degree is when pain lasts for more than a few hours, and you may see dark blue or black areas under the skin. Experts say if you see these symptoms you need to get to a doctor.
That's why if you have to be outside especially when we have cold wind chill factors you need to make sure you are protecting the exposed parts of your body. Things like your ears, nose, toes, and fingers. The NWS says mittens are more effective than gloves for warming your hands. Also they say keep your skin dry. Stay out of the wind when possible. Drink plenty of fluids since hydration increases the blood's volume, which helps prevent frostbite. Avoid caffeinated beverages because experts say they constrict blood vessels. Also avoid alcohol because it reduces shivering, which is one of your body's ways of keeping warm.
If you come upon someone who has frostbite the NWS says you should never rub or massage them. Instead they say use your armpits, your body if it's warm, warm drinks, and warm clothes to thaw frozen body parts. Also remove rings, watches, and anything that is tight. Your goal is to get indoors as quickly as possible, without walking on a frostbitten foot if you can avoid it.
The NWS says when you are inside get in a warm (not hot) bath and wrap your face and ears in a moist, warm (not hot) towel. Don't get near a hot stove or heater, and don't use a heating pad, a hot water bottle, or a hair dryer. You may burn yourself before your feeling returns. Your frostbitten skin will become red and swollen, and you'll feel like it's on fire. You may develop blisters. Don't break the blisters. It could cause scarring. If your skin is blue or gray, very swollen, blistered, or feels hard and numb even under the surface, go to a hospital immediately.
Hypothermia is another concern during cold weather. In fact just last week a bus was brought in to keep firefighters warm while they were fighting an apartment fire in Sioux Falls. Officials told us they did this because it was dangerous for them to be outside too long while getting wet in the cold temperatures we had that day. The NWS says a body temperature below 96 degrees Fahrenheit is called hypothermia, and it doesn't take arctic temperatures to put you at risk. Even a moderately chilly air temperature of 60 degrees is low enough to trigger hypothermia if you aren't properly clothed. The Red Cross says some symptoms of Hypothermia area, feeling cold, shivering (which will stop as the condition worsens,) slurred speech, pale skin, bluish lips, slow pulse, lethargic, mood swings, unable to think clearly, and unconsciousness.
The NWS says there are several things you can do to avoid hypothermia. Dress in layers and always wrap up well when going outside in the cold. Even though none of us like paying the bills experts say you really should set your thermostat to at least 70 degrees during cold weather.
Avoid extensive exposure to breezes and drafts. Eat hot foods and drink warm drinks several times during the day. If you have elderly neighbors it would be nice to check on them every day to make sure they don't need anything and that they are staying warm enough. If your temperature is 96 degrees or less or you feel sluggish or recognize that you're having trouble thinking clearly, see your doctor immediately or go to the nearest emergency room. It's better to be overly cautious than to die of a disorder that doesn't have to be deadly.
If you find someone who you think might be suffering from hypothermia experts say, first call an ambulance. Then lie close to the person and cover both of you with thick blankets. The hotter you get, the more warmth you can give the other person. Don't rub the person or handle him or her roughly. That can make things worse. If the person is awake, give warm liquids to drink. Avoid alcohol and caffeine as they can hinder the body's heat-producing mechanisms. Do not warm the person too quickly by immersing him or her in warm water. Rapid re-warming can cause heart problems.