Saturday, January 17, 2009

Beware of frostbite in sub-zero weather

Frostbite is especially dangerous for people with certain medical conditions. People with peripheral vascular diseases, diabetes and the alcoholic population are at an even greater risk.

With alcoholics, the dehydrating effects, combined with the fact many of them are malnourished, allows them to be highly susceptible.

The most common places to get frostbite are the cheeks, chin, fingers, nose and toes.

Frostbite is staged just like burns. There are four stages. The first degree is characterized by a central area of pallor, a white splotch in the skin with numbness around it.

At the second degree, people will see blisters that can have clear, milky fluid inside.

You might see redness around the area develop within the first 12 to 24 hours. At the third degree, it's really just a much deeper injury that could become blood blisters. The fourth degree is an extension into the muscle and even to the bone -- toes fall off, tips of noses fall off. It's very dangerous.

Smokers are also at a higher risk.

The nicotine causes vessels to clamp down and causes a lack of blood flow to the skin. Exhaustion, with people who work out and get tired, also puts people at risk.

Wear multi-layered clothing, with the inner-most layer being polypropylene or silk, which keeps moisture away from the skin.

You need eye protection, too. Goggles will keep heat trapped in. You can do real corneal damage if not. Mittens are better than gloves because they trap heat better. Stay away from things which can cause heat loss.

When you start to feel intense stinging pain in an exposed area, that area is freezing, and the nerves are responding by sending intense pain to the brain.

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