Dangerously Cold Temperatures Raise the Risk of Frostbite and Hypothermia

January 29, 2019

Temperatures are expected to drop below zero with the wind chills dropping as low as 30 degrees below zero in parts of the Midwest. The dangerous cold will greatly increase the risk of developing frostbite or hypothermia.

“The best advice to avoid frostbite and hypothermia is to stay indoors, if at all possible,” said Dr. Zach Tebb, medical director of Emergency Medicine at Mercy Hospital South. “But if you must go outside in the freezing cold, be sure to cover as much of your skin as possible, dress in layers, and it’s very important to keep your socks, shoes and gloves dry. If they do get wet, take a break, head inside and change out any wet clothing.”

Dr. Zach Tebb, Medical Director of Emergency Medicine at Mercy Hospital South, explains to KMOV News 4 how to avoid frostbite.

Frostbite most often affects fingers, toes, the nose, ears, cheeks and chin. The first warning signs are typically a feeling of firmness or warmth, or no feeling at all as the affected area goes numb. You should head into a warm room at the first sign of any symptoms, or even better, take frequent breaks in the warmth before any symptoms appear. Anyone with poor blood circulation is at a higher risk for developing frostbite, which can cause permanent body damage or, in severe cases, lead to amputation.

Hypothermia is when the overall body temperature drops, usually due to prolonged exposure to extremely cold temperatures. When the body temperature drops too low, it can affect the brain leading to poor thinking or memory loss and to problems controlling the body such as slurred speech or drowsiness.

“With hypothermia, we worry about older adults, especially people who live alone. They can step outside for something as simple as getting the mail. If they fall down and spend hours on their porch in nice weather until someone can help, they will likely recover. But that extended time outside in these temperatures can be deadly. The mail can wait. The newspaper can wait. Be safe and stay indoors if you can. If you have an elderly loved one or a neighbor who lives alone, take the time to check on them,” Dr. Tebb said.

Should I Go to Convenient, Urgent or Emergency Care?

View your care choices in our single guide.

Find an Urgent Care or Convenient Care

Search for an urgent care or convenient care location closest to you.

Find an Emergency Room

Find an emergency room closest to you.

Media Contact