Health Department warns about frostbite and hypothermia

Geneseo Republic
Frostbite & Hypothermia

The staff of the Henry and Stark County Health Departments and their First Choice Healthcare Clinics in Kewanee and Colona 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 judgment 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 and First Choice Healthcare 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.