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Frostbite a Concern as Ohio Digs Out After Winter Storm

PHOTO: The elderly, children and people with circulation issues are most at risk of developing frostbite. Credit: M. Kuhlman
PHOTO: The elderly, children and people with circulation issues are most at risk of developing frostbite. Credit: M. Kuhlman
January 3, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The first winter storm of 2014 has made its way out of the Buckeye State, leaving behind inches of snow, strong winds and bitter temperatures.

Health experts warn that extreme cold can bring dangers to your health.

Dr. Stephen Meldon, director of the Cleveland Clinic Emergency Room, says when it gets this cold, frostbite does become a possibility.

"We really worry when there's a wind chill factor out because that makes the body lose heat faster than it normally would at that same temperature,” he explains. “So it can happen really over several hours if you're outdoors working or walking around and not aware that you're getting cold."

Meldon says signs of frostbite include a cold sensation that turns to tingling and numbness, and red, white or graying skin. Prevention is key, and he says as you bundle up, make sure to wear gloves, a hat and have good footwear.

The elderly, children and individuals with poor circulation are most at risk of developing frostbite.

Meldon explains frostbite is classified the same way as a burn, depending on the degree. And treatment varies based on severity.

"For superficial ones, you really should re-warm it in warm water,” he says. “Be careful because you don't want to have hot water.

“It may be very painful and you may need to take Motrin or something else to cover the pain. If it's really severe frostbite, you should actually seek medical attention."

Hypothermia is another risk with exposure to freezing temperatures. That's when a person's core body temperature drops, and it can lead to confusion, unconsciousness and even death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are about 1,300 deaths in the U.S. each year associated with exposure to excessive cold.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH