December Freeze: Hypothermia and Frostbite Warning

When the winter weather hits most of us are concerned about catching a cold or getting the flu, but there are other health risks you should be concerned about.

Frostbite and hypothermia can be very dangerous and sometimes deadly.  Doctor Leo Mercer with the United Regional said the issues come from exposure of body parts to the cold.  What happens with hypothermia is your metabolic rate, which is the amount of energy expended in a given period of time, can’t support you tissue, brain, and heart from getting the fluids they need.

Dr. Leo said, “The inability of the body to either control its temperature or exposure to the cold weather where the body can’t be protected from the effects of the cold.

Basically your body just shuts down.  It is common for people feeling cold to want to lay down and take a nap, but if you are outside that isn't’t the best idea in the winter weather.

Frost bit is also a major concern.  It is common to get frost bite on the tip of your nose, your cheeks, and the tips of your finger.  Tingling in your fingers is a common symptom and they might even start turning blue and then eventually white.

The best thing you can do to avoid getting frost bite or hypothermia, if you have to go outside, is to bundle up and plan ahead.

“Make sure your heat is on in your home or apartment.  Keep your cell phone on so people know where you are,” Dr. Mercer said.

Dr. Mercer also advises to make sure you have an emergency contact in your cell phone to help first responders if they need to contact a family member or friend.  Also keep an emergency kit in your car in case it breaks down on the side of the road and you are left stranded for a period of time.  A blanket could save your life!  If you aren’t wearing a pair of gloves, make sure you have a set in your car to make sure you stay warm.

If you have to go to the emergency because of these health risks there are different ways they treat you.  To treat frostbite doctors will warm the extremity of the body part that is exposed.  They will put blanks on you. 

With hypothermia there is a different approach.  They have air driven warmers that will surface warm the patients.  If the patients temperature is extremely low then they will warm the patient up by using a device called the altius console.  This is where they put a catheter into the patients main vain and it will circulate warm fluid throughout the body.

“Our main goal is to make sure they are warmed up quickly,” Dr. Mercer said.

Health risks like hypothermia and frostbite can’t always be avoided, but those risks during the cold weather can be reduced by people simply being prepared.  However, if you have to go outside make sure to bundle up.  It could make a difference.

Alexandra McClung, Newschannel 6