What to do when Jack Frost bites

What to do when Jack Frost bites

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BLOOMINGTON - Jack Frost is everywhere this holiday season, and that means increased risk of frostbite.

"This is the season; bundle up," said Kathleen Davis, a spokeswoman for the McLean County Health Department.

Once temperatures drop below 32 degrees, there's a danger of frostbite, Davis said. Frostbite typically affects body parts most exposed, including the nose, ears, cheeks, the chin, fingers and toes.

Dressing in several layers of loose-fitting clothing is helpful as it helps insulate the body by trapping warm, dry air inside.

Wearing mittens instead of gloves is recommended as fingers stay warmer when they are together instead of separated, Davis said.

Hats and turtlenecks

Also, wearing a hat and turtleneck can help conserve heat in the head and neck area, which lose heat faster than other parts of the body.

If Jack Frost bites, you should know the signs:

w Superficial frostbite is characterized by white, waxy, or grayish-yellow patches on the affected area.

w Deep frostbite may result in blistering.

w Getting frostbite victims inside and removing constrictive clothing that impairs circulation is helpful, Davis said.

w Also helpful is placing the frostbitten part in warm water. Hot water should be avoided because the victim can't sense heat and could be scalded, Davis said.

w If warm water isn't available, placing hands in the warmth of armpits or crotch can help warm them.

w Don't, however, rub or massage the frostbitten area. And, don't rub it with ice or snow.

"The friction can cause more damage. You don't rub it with ice or snow because you want to add warmth," Davis said.

More dangerous than frostbite is hypothermia, which occurs when the body loses more heat than it produces. Symptoms include slurred speech and uncontrollable shivering.

With severe hypothermia, muscles may be rigid and skin dark and puffy. Irregular heartbeat and unconsciousness may result.

Hypothermia should be treated by getting the victim out of the cold and insulating the individual with blankets and towels. Covering the head and replacing wet clothing are important.

"With hypothermia you should definitely seek medical attention," Davis said.

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Signs of trouble

w Superficial frostbite: White, waxy or grayish-yellow patches. The skin feels cold and numb, with the surface feeling stiff but the underlying tissue feeling soft when depressed.

w Deep frostbite: Waxy and pale skin. The skin feels cold, hard and solid and cannot be depressed. Large blisters may appear after rewarming.

w Hypothermia: When the body loses more heat than it produces. Symptoms include a change in mental status and uncontrollable shivering. Severe hypothermia may cause irregular heartbeat and unconsciousness.

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