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What you need to know about frostbite and hypothermia

It's dangerously cold with the outside temperature hovering around zero and wind chills expected to plunge into the negative 20s today and Saturday.

The dangers are frostbite and hypothermia.

Here's some advice from the American Red Cross about how to recognize hypothermia and frostbite and what to do to treat it.

Frostbite is the freezing of a specific body part such as fingers, toes, the nose or earlobes.

Signs of frostbite include lack of feeling in the affected area and skin that appears waxy, is cold to the touch, or is discolored -- flushed, white or gray, yellow or blue.

If you think someone is suffering from frostbite:

  • Move the person to a warm place.
  • Handle the area gently. Never rub the affected area.
  • Warm gently by soaking the affected area in warm water (100–105 degrees F) until it appears red and feels warm.
  • Loosely bandage the area with dry, sterile dressings.
  • If the person’s fingers or toes are frostbitten, place dry, sterile gauze between them to keep them separated.
  • Avoid breaking any blisters.Do not allow the affected area to refreeze.
  • Seek professional medical care as soon as possible.

Hypothermia is caused by the cooling of the body caused by the failure of the body’s warming system. It can quickly become life threatening. The goals of first aid are to restore normal body temperature and to care for any conditions while waiting for EMS personnel.

Signs of hypothermia include shivering, numbness and glassy stare; apathy, weakness and impaired judgment; and loss of consciousness.

If you think someone is suffering from hypthermia:

  • Call 911.
  • Gently move the person to a warm place.
  • Monitor breathing and circulation.
  • Give rescue breathing and CPR if needed.
  • Remove any wet clothing and dry the person.
  • Warm the person slowly by wrapping in blankets or by putting dry clothing on the person. Hot water bottles and chemical hot packs may be used when first wrapped in a towel or blanket before applying. Do not warm the person too quickly, such as by immersing him or her in warm water. Rapid warming may cause dangerous heart arrhythmias. Warm the core first (trunk, abdomen), not the extremities (hands, feet). This is important to mention because most people will try to warm hands and feet first and that can cause shock.
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