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Fighting Frostbite In The Frigid Weather

Reported: Jan. 23, 2014 11:28 PM EST
Updated: Jan. 24, 2014 9:36 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Stefano DiPietrantonio) - With the bitter cold wind chills, day or night, is not time to be out in the dangerous cold. You could wind-up in the hospital after only a few minutes of exposure with frostbite. The first stage, some doctors told us, is called “frost nip”. This can occur within 1 to 2 minutes outside. Your skin’s exposed, it stings and it won’t take too long after that for the real damage to set in.

"It could be as little as a few minutes," said Dr. Tom Bowden with CAMC. Even 5 to 10 minutes, depending on your body size and type, can get you past the point of no return, with the damage done. Your skin literally starts to freeze as the blood supply is slowly cut off.

"You gotta wear socks, you gotta wear shoes, cover your face," said Bowden, who added, soft tissue like the nose, ears, fingers and toes, are especially vulnerable, so you need to cover them up! We saw a woman texting and walking at the same time, with her hands uncovered so she could text, so there’s another reason texting and doing anything else can be hazardous!

"When you have damage to the tissues, the damage is a lot of time permanent. so the earlier you can get out of the cold and warm up the better," said Bowden.

Frostbitten skin can feel waxy like a candle, you may also feel a burning sensation. Bowden said the damage cannot be undone.

"Kind of get a numb, sometimes tingly feeling. your fingers can kind of get blanched,” said Bowden. “Sometimes turn a little yellow, that's usually the signs that you're getting to the point of no return."

And if you think you’re in trouble, or find someone who’s been exposed too long, here’s what Bowden said not to do.

"You shouldn't rub the area, a lot of people say rub it, that'll actually cause more tissue damage. You don't want to put a heating pad on it or run it under hot water," said Bowden.

He said just get them out of the cold, it’s that simple, and get them covered up. Eventually the skin will warm up.

"Sometimes it takes 2 or 3 days after re-warming to run some tests, imaging studies, to see how much tissue depth you have," said Bowden.

He said to dress warmly, dress in layers, and limit your exposure outside. It’s also a good idea to eat a good meal, as the cold makes you burn more calories, and you’ll need those to brave the cold!



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