Frostbite: What you need to know

What meteorologists are referring to as a "polar vortex" entered a number of cities located in the Midwest in the evening hours of January 5. The wickedly low temperatures put area residents at risk of frostbite if they are outdoors for too long.1 In some parts of the country, temperatures are expected to drop to 15 to 30 degrees below zero.

Preventative measures
Those living in these chilly cities can take a number of steps to prevent frostbite from occurring. While everyone is urged to stay indoors unless they have to go outside, many will need to make the commute to work. In these cases, time spent outdoors should be limited, in addition to:

  • wearing multiple layers of loose-fitting clothing
  • putting a wind and waterproof layer on last
  • sporting a hat that covers the ears
  • protecting the fingers with mittens instead of gloves2

Symptoms of frostbite
At the first sign of frostbite, sufferers should take action. Depending on the severity of the issue, medical attention may be necessary. Symptoms include:

  • Aching and throbbing to the exposed part of the body
  • A feeling of pins and needles, followed by numbness to the area
  • Inability to feel sensation in the area
  • Skin that has turned pale, hard and cold following prolonged exposure
  • This flesh will appear red and be painful upon thawing

As frostbite becomes more severe, blisters and gangrene may occur.3 Unfortunately, in the current weather the Midwest, this can occur in an astonishing amount of time. According to the National Weather Service, at negative 20 degrees, it can take just 30 minutes for frostbite to set in.4 As the winds from the polar vortex pick up, that time can be cut to 10 minutes with winds that are only at 15 miles per hour.

In order to deal with frostbite appropriately, pick up wound care supplies from Medex Supply. This online medical supply store has all of the necessary items to help prevent infection of the affected area.

1 The Associated Press, c/o ABC News, "Dangerous cold can mean frostbite, car trouble" January 6, 2014
2 Mayo Clinic, "Frostbite: Prevention" October 7, 2011
3 National Institutes of Health, "Frostbite" October 31, 2013
4 National Weather Service, "NWS Windchill Chart" December 17, 2013

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