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Geneseo Republic - Geneseo, IL
RaeAnn Tucker-Marshall is the public information director of the Henry/Stark Health Departments.
Blog: Avoiding frostbite and hypothermia
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Rae-Ann Tucker-Marshall
Henry-Stark Health Department
Jan. 13, 2014 10:38 a.m.

The staff of the Henry and Stark County Health Departments remind area

residents that frostbite and hypothermia are the greatest threats facing

anyone who ventures outside in temperatures below freezing. It only takes a

few minutes in subzero weather for problems to occur.

Frostbite occurs when the cold outside slows circulation and tissue

begins to die. The hands and feet are usually affected first. Hypothermia

occurs when the body's core temperature is lowered, and can result in death

if the drop in body heat slows the heart rate too much. Frostbite symptoms

include numbness in the fingers, ears, nose, or feet. The affected areas

may be red or white and hurt when rewarmed.

Medical treatment for frostbite usually consists of rewarming the

affected area. Prolonged exposure to the cold can result in significant

destruction of tissue. Serious cases of frostbite can result in gangrene,

leading to possible amputation of the affected body part.

To prevent frostbite and hypothermia, persons should wear hats which

cover the ears, scarves or masks to cover the face, mittens instead of

gloves so fingers can warm each other, and several layers of clothing to

trap the body heat. Dampness increases the risk of frostbite and clothing

should be changed if it becomes wet.

Drinking alcohol increases the chance of both hypothermia and frostbite.

Alcohol slows down the heart and blurs the judgement of how cold the person

really is. Smokers are more apt to experience spasms in blood vessels which

interfere with circulation, thus increasing the threat of frostbite.

The Health Department reminds everyone to avoid exposure to extreme cold

for more than a few minutes. Serious tissue damage can occur in a short

period of time.


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