Cleveland - As hundreds of school districts in Northeast Ohio close down Tuesday as a result of frigid temperatures, how can workers or others who have to brave the conditions avoid frostbite?
The Mayo Clinic gives some telltale Signs and symptoms of frostbite, which include:
- At first, cold skin and a prickling feeling
- Red, white, bluish-white or grayish-yellow skin
- Hard or waxy-looking skin
- Clumsiness due to joint and muscle stiffness
- Blistering after rewarming, in severe cases
The Mayo Clinic also explains that frostbite happens in three stages:
- Frostnip. Frostnip is a mild form of frostbite. Continued exposure leads to numbness in the affected area. As your skin warms, you may feel pain and tingling. Frostnip doesn't permanently damage the skin.
- Superficial frostbite. Superficial frostbite appears as reddened skin that turns white or pale. Your skin may begin to feel warm — a sign of serious skin involvement. If you treat frostbite with rewarming at this stage, the surface of your skin may appear mottled. And you may notice stinging, burning and swelling. A fluid-filled blister may appear 12 to 36 hours after rewarming the skin.
- Deep (severe) frostbite. As frostbite progresses, it affects all layers of the skin, including the tissues that lie below. Your skin turns white or bluish gray and you may experience numbness, losing all sensation of cold, pain or discomfort in the affected area. Joints or muscles may no longer work. Large blisters form 24 to 48 hours after rewarming. Afterward, the area turns black and hard as the tissue dies.
But, the good news is frostbite in these conditions can be prevented. Here are some tips to stay warm:
- Limit time you're outdoors in cold, wet or windy weather. Pay attention to weather forecasts and wind chill readings. In very cold, windy weather, exposed skin can develop frostbite in a matter of minutes.
- Dress in several layers of loose, warm clothing. Air trapped between the layers of clothing acts as insulation against the cold. Wear windproof and waterproof outer garments to protect against wind, snow and rain. Choose undergarments that wick moisture away from your skin. Change out of wet clothing — particularly gloves, hats and socks — as soon as possible.
- Wear a hat or headband that fully covers your ears. Heavy woolen or windproof materials make the best headwear for cold protection.
- Wear mittens rather than gloves. Mittens provide better protection. Or try a thin pair of glove liners made of a wicking material (such as polypropylene) under a pair of heavier gloves or mittens.
- Wear socks and sock liners that fit well, wick moisture and provide insulation.You might also try hand and foot warmers. Be sure the foot warmers don't make your boots too tight, restricting blood flow.
- Watch for signs of frostbite. Early signs of frostbite include red or pale skin, prickling, and numbness. Seek warm shelter if you notice signs of frostbite.
- Plan to protect yourself. When traveling in cold weather, carry emergency supplies and warm clothing in case you become stranded. If you'll be in remote territory, tell others your route and expected return date.
- Don't drink alcohol if you plan to be outdoors in cold weather. Alcoholic beverages cause your body to lose heat faster.
- Eat well-balanced meals and stay hydrated. Doing this even before you go out in the cold will help you stay warm.
- Keep moving. Exercise can get the blood flowing and help you stay warm, but don't do it to the point of exhaustion.
For more info on frostbite, click here.
Photo courtesy of Scott Elsen / Getty Images
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