Better to prevent it than treat it.
On January 6, 2014 Gov. Mark Dayton ordered all schools be closed due to extreme cold temperatures that blanketed the state.
Fast forward one year later and Minnesota is again facing double digit air and wind chill temperatures for much of this week. When wind chill values of 20 to 40 below zero are forecasted it is time to think about protecting yourselves, children and pets from frostbite.
The temperature the morning of January 5, 2015 was -11 and with the wind chill it felt like -25. Kids headed out the door with extra layers to keep them warm while waiting for the bus and plumes of exhaust filled the air as cars were warmed for the chilly drive to work.
While bundling up when you know you have to be outside is a good idea, it is important to note that frostbite can occur within 30 minutes when temperatures are as low they were on Monday. Dress in layers and go inside immediately if you get wet.
There are three degrees of exposure – frostnip, superficial frostbite and deep frostbite. People with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease are at increased risk for frostbite. Certain medications also increase the risk.
“Superficial frostbite results in very little tissue loss and heals quickly with little to no need for medical treatment. Deep frostbite has greater consequences; one can expect significant tissue loss and often results in amputations to manage the injury. Do not rub the skin and do not pop blisters,” said Carrie Lager, Manager of Emergency Services at River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic.
Frostbite most often occurs in areas furthest from the body’s core – fingers, hands, ears, nose, feet and toes. It begins when blood vessels in the affected area begin to contract, reducing blood flow and oxygen to the area. Loss of feeling in the area occurs then color changes – pale to blue –will begin.
“Avoid alcohol before going out in the cold weather or during as it may keep you from recognizing the symptoms of frostbite,” Lager said.
Treatment of frostbite includes a physical exam of the exposed area. In some cases the patient is admitted to the hospital for observation. Warming of the exposed area is done by placing the frostbitten area in warm water (100-105 degrees Fahrenheit). In 3-5 imaging of the area is done to identify any tissue damage after rewarming. If getting immediate medical attention is not an option, get out of the cold as quickly as possible and, if there is no risk of refreezing, warm the area in warm water to thaw the exposed area. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic provides quality health services that value all dimensions of health including mind, body and spirit. Our goal is to improve the health of all individuals we serve through continuous, measurable improvement in patient satisfaction, clinical quality, patient safety and operational effectiveness.