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The Weather Channel calls them the
"Frigid Five:" Barrow, AK; International Falls, MN.; Gunnison, CO.; Jackson, WY; and Caribou, ME.
You may not live in one of America's five coldest cities, but that doesn't mean you don't have to protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia. Both conditions are caused by excessive exposure to low temperatures, wind or moisture.
Cold weather can be dangerous for anyone who enjoys outdoor winter sports, and people who work outdoors during winter must be particularly mindful of the risks.
Before venturing outside in winter, be sure to:
Even skin that is protected can be subject to frostbite. It's the most common injury resulting from exposure to severe cold, and it usually occurs on fingers, toes, nose, ears, cheeks and chin. If caught early, it is possible to prevent permanent damage. If not,
frostbite can lead to amputation.
Superficial frostbite affects the skin surface, while the underlying tissue remains soft. The skin appears white, waxy or grayish-yellow and is cold and numb.
If the condition is allowed to progress to deep frostbite, all layers of the skin are affected and the outcome likely will be more serious. The skin will become completely numb, blisters may form and eventually the skin tissue dies and turns black.
If you suspect frostbite:
Hypothermia occurs when the body's temperature drops below 95 degrees. Severe shivering, one of the first signs of hypothermia, is beneficial in keeping the body warm. But as hypothermia progresses, shivering gives way to drowsiness or exhaustion, confusion, shallow breathing, irregular heartbeat, slurred speech, loss of coordination and, eventually, unconsciousness and even death.
In one of the most bizarre symptoms of hypothermia, "paradoxical undressing," a person actually undresses instead of bundling up. Researchers believe that in the final throes of hypothermia, a person may feel like he or she is overheating due to a rush of warm blood to the extremities.
So what should you do if you encounter someone suffering from hypothermia?
None of these steps are a substitute for proper medical care. Be sure to seek medical attention for frostbite and hypothermia as soon as possible.
Winter is fun. So go make those snow angels and tackle that double black diamond. Just make sure to limit exposure and bundle up.
If you're considering taking
the Polar Plunge, make sure to consult a doctor first to determine if you have any underlying health problems. The
enormous shock of these types of activities puts a strain on the heart, doctors say. Keep in mind: