Doctors warn about frostbite

WICHITA, Kansas – With temperatures being so cold over the past few days, bundling up has been extra important to prevent health issues like frostbite.

Now, police are urging parents to keep an extra close eye on their kids to make sure they don’t go outside without being covered up for the weather.

“We’ve got significantly low temperatures and dangerous wind chills, and parents need to be very vigilant to watch out for their kids,” said Lt. Doug Nolte.

Wednesday morning, police found a 4-year-old wandering around outside about a block away from home.

The child had on pajamas and tennis shoes.

The wind chill at that time was below 10.

“Fortunately, the child that was out in the elements was not injured or harmed in anyway,” said Nolte.

But doctors say with these temperatures, dressing in layers is important, and it doesn’t take look for frostbite to develop.

“To be out in negative 10 wind chill factor, it probably wouldn’t take very long.”

Doctors give two important pieces of advice to stay safe.

First, they want you to dress in layers, and second listen closely to your body.

If you notices signs like pain in your fingers or toes or skin discoloration, it is time to move inside.

“You want to just slowly re-warm in mildly warm water or tepid water, not hot water, so you don’t burn the skin,” said Dr. Francie Ekengren, Wesley Medical Center.

Ekengren says the effects are first felt on your fingers, toes, nose and ears.

It’s more than just cold, it’s also painful and the skin may start to look white or grey, and in extreme cases can turn black leading to amputation.

Tips for recognizing frostbite from the CDC

Recognizing Frostbite
At the first signs of redness or pain in any skin area, get out of the cold or protect any exposed skin-frostbite may be beginning. Any of the following signs may indicate frostbite:

  • a white or grayish-yellow skin area
  • skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
  • numbness

A victim is often unaware of frostbite until someone else points it out because the frozen tissues are numb.

What to Do
If you detect symptoms of frostbite, seek medical care. Because frostbite and hypothermia both result from exposure, first determine whether the victim also shows signs of hypothermia, as described previously. Hypothermia is a more serious medical condition and requires emergency medical assistance.

If (1) there is frostbite but no sign of hypothermia and (2) immediate medical care is not available, proceed as follows:

  • Get into a warm room as soon as possible.
  • Unless absolutely necessary, do not walk on frostbitten feet or toes-this increases the damage.
  • Immerse the affected area in warm-not hot-water (the temperature should be comfortable to the touch for unaffected parts of the body).
  • Or, warm the affected area using body heat. For example, the heat of an armpit can be used to warm frostbitten fingers.
  • Do not rub the frostbitten area with snow or massage it at all. This can cause more damage.
  • Don’t use a heating pad, heat lamp, or the heat of a stove, fireplace, or radiator for warming. Affected areas are numb and can be easily burned.

These procedures are not substitutes for proper medical care. Hypothermia is a medical emergency and frostbite should be evaluated by a health care provider. It is a good idea to take a first aid and emergency resuscitation (CPR) course to prepare for cold-weather health problems. Knowing what to do is an important part of protecting your health and the health of others.

Taking preventive action is your best defense against having to deal with extreme cold-weather conditions. By preparing your home and car in advance for winter emergencies, and by observing safety precautions during times of extremely cold weather, you can reduce the risk of weather-related health problems.

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