Staying Safe In Winter Weather: Signs Of Frostbite, Hypothermia

Ahead of below-freezing temperatures, the Oklahoma Department of Health shares advice on how you can stay safe, and know when to seek medical attention.

Thursday, January 11th 2024, 10:11 pm

By: News 9


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A blast of freezing temperatures coming to central Oklahoma is prompting reminders to avoid frostbite and hypothermia.

According to the CDC, some symptoms of hypothermia are shivering, exhaustion, confusion, and memory loss. Signs of frostbite include white or grayish-yellow skin, skin that feels firm or waxy, and numbness. "Really the key when it comes to frostbite is prevention," said Dr. Clayton Nelson, an orthopedic hand surgeon with SSM Health. "Avoid cold exposure. Especially these extreme temperatures."

In cases of frostbite, blood vessels constrict themselves to keep the core of a person's body as warm as possible. "When that happens, the extremities that are exposed are at risk because the lack of blood flow cannot warm those extremities appropriately," Nelson said.

Oklahoma's State Department of Health has an injury prevention program that shares tips for winter weather. "Make sure you're wearing shoes that are sure-footed," said Christian Bonds, a coordinator for the program. "That you're not walking on ice if you have the option to go a different direction."

Bonds also said people respond differently to cold weather. An apparent symptom in one person may not be the same for another. But, if in doubt, seeking medical help is a smart option.

Bonds and Nelson also recommend getting people inside and away from the frigid temperatures if beginning to experience frostbite or hypothermia. Removing any wet or cold clothing and replacing it with dry clothing is important. But, both say not to overexpose the body to intense heat. Any heat sources should be warm to the touch, according to the CDC. "The rewarming process can stop some of that tissue damage, and if done appropriately, can stop further damage from occurring," said Nelson.

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