Hypothermia & Frostbite Concerns

By: Sarah Platt Email
By: Sarah Platt Email

This bitter cold weather isn't just uncomfortable, it can also be a threat to your health, if you're not careful. Hypothermia and frostbite are not uncommon problems in these types of cold snaps.
With these sub-zero temps and the wind, hypothermia and frostbite can set in very quickly for both humans and pets.

Doctors say the best advice is that you and your pets don't stay out for long. And if you have to be outside- take indoor breaks often.

The sun might have been shining outside, but it certainly didn't feel like it's rays did anything to help fight this cold snap. Doctors say the elderly and children are those most at risk for hypothermia and frostbite.

“When you get outdoors and you feel pain, if your fingers start to hurt or your ears start to hurt, then you're one step before frostbite. It's when the pain goes away that you're probably in trouble,” says Dr. George Knowles of St. Joseph Regional Medical Center.

Dr. Knowles says multiple layers of clothing are the best way to go. And he says if you get wet or sweaty, you should change your clothes as soon as you possible. “As the cold goes on and people that are working in the cold- then workers who have wet feet, socks, hands, gloves-- they'll be at risk for frostbite on the fingers and toes,” says Knowles.

And pets, just like people, need the same attention when it comes to the cold weather. “The thing we worry about most is the wind chill. If it's below zero, we just recommend that we don't stay outside. They can go outside and do their business and that’s about it,” says Dr. Jeff Vogl with University Park Veterinary Hospital.

And when you're dog comes back inside, Vogl recommends rinsing his or her paws of ice and salt. Buildup can be painful.

“The salt is irritating to their paws, so you want to rinse them off. The dogs who have feathers- we have to shave the bottom of their feet so the snow can't accumulate- and that's quite painful for them,” adds Vogl.

And if you're not careful, whether you're man or man's best friend, frostbite and hypothermia can lead to lost extremities; or even worse, it can be deadly.

Some advice from ER doctors, drink plenty of fluids. Dr. Knowles says similar to the very hot weather, the arctic air literally sucks the fluids right out of us. As of Monday at St. Joe Regional Medical Center, they fortunately have not had to treat anyone for frostbite and hypothermia. They want to keep it that way, especially with more bitter cold days ahead.


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