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What's Up Magazine

Frozen? Let it go, indeed!

Feb 18, 2015 02:00PM ● By Cate Reynolds
Human selective memory is a wonderful gift. Each winter in Maryland we freeze our terrapins off, yet are somehow surprised when cold weather rolls around again. We never seem to have a warm enough coat, those gloves don't do a good job when you are try to clean snow off the car, and you are reduced to wearing that remarkably unbecoming knit hat your mother gave you three Christmases ago because you still haven't taken the time to find one you like.

But this winter, this is one to remember. And it may be worth our time to take a refresher course in safely coping with conditions.

The American Academy of Dermatology (located in Schaumburg, IL, so they should know what they are talking about) has issued their Frostbite Prevention and Treatment guidelines just in time.

Frostbite, they tell us, is when the skin, and sometimes the tissue beneath the skin, freezes due to prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. “Frostbite usually affects the face, nose, ears, fingers, and toes, so on bitterly cold days, it's not enough to just put on a winter coat,” says board-certified dermatologist Amy J. Derick, M.D., FAAD, clinical instructor of dermatology, Northwestern University. “To really protect your skin from dangerously low temperatures, keep an eye on the weather, dress appropriately for outdoor activities, and stay dry.”

To avoid frostbite, Dr. Derick recommends the following tips:

º Dress in loose, light, comfortable layers—they help trap warm air. The top layer should be windproof and waterproof.

º Protect your feet and toes by wearing two pairs of socks. The pair next to your skin should be moisture-wicking, the top pair should be wool or a wool blend—then put these toasty tootsies inside a pair of well-insulated, waterproof boots.

º Protect your head and ears by wearing a heavy wool or fleece hat. On a bitterly cold day, cover your face with a scarf or wear a mask, which warms the air you breathe and helps prevent frostbit on your nose and face.

º Protect your hands by wearing insulated mittens or gloves.

º Make sure snow cannot get inside your boots or clothing. Wet clothes increase the risk of frostbite.

º Stay hydrated. Dehydration increases the risk of developing frostbite—but do not drink alcohol because this exacerbates dehydration.

º Know the symptoms of frostbite including redness, stinging, burning, throbbing, or prickling sensations followed by numbness. If any of these occur, head indoors immediately and try to gradually bring feeling back into your body.

“Never rub frostbitten skin or submerge your hands or feet directly into hot water,” Dr. Derick recommends. “If you do not feel sensation returning to your body, or if the skin begins to turn gray, go to the emergency room immediately.”

--Sarah Hagerty
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