Do You Know Frostbite

 I just did something I should not have done. I checked the weather. It is 12 degrees but feels like -1. UGH! Why did they have to invent wind chill factors?
It has certainly turned to winter here- much faster than I would have liked. With the weather that is sweeping the nation, it brings up the problem of frostbite. Also, it is possible that you might be heading out to enjoy winter sports on your upcoming school vacation. There is a possibility of frostbite while enjoying winter sports.
While I have heard of frostbite my entire life, I didn’t really know that much about it. (I did know that Rocky and Bullwinkle came from Frostbite Falls) I did know that you get frostbite from having your skin exposed to cold weather. But I wasn’t really clear as to exactly what it meant to have frostbite or what you should do if you think you have frostbite.
Frostbite is caused by exposure of skin and body tissues to extreme cold.  This can be cold temperatures by themselves or cold temperatures that are accompanied by winds which make those wind chill factors important. (I still hate hearing about them.) The parts of your body furthest away from your core are the most likely targets for frostbite. Those areas are your hands and fingers, your ears, your feet, and your nose and your face.  Also, certain medicines or health conditions will increase your chances of getting frostbite. Those who take beta blockers or smoke or have diabetes or peripheral vascular disease are at a higher risk for frostbite.
Frostbite is what you would think – it is when your skin freezes. There are three levels of frostbite. They are frostnip, superficial frostbite, and deep frostbite.  Deep frostbite is the most serious and can lead to permanent damage. If tissue dies because it became frozen, then the area may need to be amputated.
How can you tell if you really have frostbite? Well, at first you may not be able to tell because the area is numb. If your skin looks white or greyish yellow, and if it is  very cold, you could have frostbite. The thing is that most people who have frostbite also have hypothermia (lowered body temperature) so you should first treat the hypothermia and then treat the frostbite.  After you have the area warming up, then it could go from being numb to that feeling of “pins and needles” or it could just ache and throb. It can as it warms up turn very red and become painful.  The absolute best idea is to seek medical attention fast.  If the frostbite is on the toes or fingers, while going to the emergency room, you will want to separate the fingers or toes. Wrap them separately in sterile gauze.
How are you going to prevent frostbite? Dress warmly, stay out of the extreme cold. If you have to go out, limit your time outdoors. Do not go outside when you are tired, or have been drinking alcohol or smoking. Wearing two pairs of socks and covering your head (don’t forget to cover your ears!) and wear mittens rather than gloves.
I have to tell you that my advice is to stay inside when it is terribly cold. I only wish I could as I am sure you wish you could also. Please bundle up and keep warm.  If you are outside and it is extremely cold, make sure you keep moving. Keep that blood circulating!
And don’t forget – if you want to get your feet ready from Spring and use up your health care dollars during this year, it is time to get in to see the doctors!
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Evanston Podiatric Surgeons and Mag Mile Foot and Ankle Institute joined forces last year so that they can offer you services not only on the North Shore but downtown Chicago as well.  If you are down in the City and need a podiatrist, stop in and see Dr. Chase.  She would love to help you!
Mag Mile Foot and Ankle Institute
333 N. Michigan Avenue Suite 1825
Chicago, IL   60601

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