Updated: Mar 19, 2021
Check the temperature and limit your time outdoors if it's very cold, wet or windy
Bundle up in several layers of loose clothing
Wear mittens rather than gloves
Cover your ears with a warm hat
Wear socks that will keep your feet warm and dry
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:
Get indoors immediately
Seek medical attention
Remove constrictive clothing and jewelry that could impair circulation
Place dry, sterile gauze between toes and fingers to absorb moisture and keep them from sticking together
Elevate the affected area to reduce pain and swelling
For superficial frostbite, you may also place the affected area in water that is 100 to 105 degrees until the tissue softens
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?
Move the victim inside and remove any wet clothing
Call for medical attention
Add blankets, pillows, towels or newspapers beneath and around the victim
Cover the victim's head
Handle the victim gently to avoid cardiac arrest
Keep the victim in a horizontal position
If necessary, give CPR
*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.