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Protect yourself against frost bite

With the leaves changing and the weather turning colder, there is no doubt that fall is in the air and winter is soon to follow. Make sure you take the proper steps to protect yourself and loved ones from the effects of colder weather and frost bite.

Frost bite occurs when outside skin temperatures drop below the freezing mark and cause skin and tissues to constrict and freeze. This usually happens to areas furthest away from the heart, mainly the ears, nose, cheeks, chin, fingers and toes. When an area becomes frost bitten, it starts to look whitish and feel numb or hard. Additionally, the skin can become greyish and waxy. The areas affected can also become difficult to move and become stiff. Blisters may form and the skin may also turn black, this is a sign of severe frostbite.

If you think you or a loved one has frost bite, the following are things you can do to help. Move the person to warmer areas as soon as possible. Remove any wet or damp clothing. Slowly warm the area affected with warm water. Do not use hot water; the water temperature should feel comfortable to normal skin. If warm water is not available, try warming the areas affected by using body heat such as placing your hands under your arm pits.

Try to limit walking on frost bitten feet unless you are heading out of the cold in to a warm area. This can damage the skin and tissues in your feet and cause further injury. Do not warm the areas injured with warm water if they are at risk of getting cold again before seeing a medical professional. Do not rub the areas, this also causes tissue injury. Do not use fire to warm the area, especially when numb, this can cause additional injury and burns if not careful.

If you feel that these steps have not helped or the areas affected are getting worse, please head to your local hospital for treatment. Treatment includes rewarming of the areas, medicines for improved blood flow and antibiotics, if needed, for infected tissue. Rewarming of frostbitten areas can be painful, but left untreated, severe frostbite can lead to extensively damaged tissue that could require surgery and possibly removal of the affected areas.

To prevent frost bite from happening, be sure to cover areas when out in the cold. Wear a hat, ear muffs, gloves and layers of clothing. Make sure to eat and drink enough if you are out in the cold for long periods of time. Avoid alcohol and smoking, both can affect blood flow to frost bitten areas. Avoid contact with cold water or metal. Inform others of where you are going and have an expected time of arrival. This lets others know if there is a delay and where to look for you if you do not arrive. Always have an emergency supply kit in your car in the event you become stranded. Frost bite can even occur indoors, be sure to place a towel or cloth between your skin and ice packs if you need to use them. Only use them for approximately 15-20 minutes per every 1-2 hours to limit frost bite.

Please follow the above steps to ensure you and love ones have a safe and happy winter holiday/hunting season.

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