Frostbite, hypothermia a real risk as temps plummet

Health

(NewsNation) —  As temperatures are plunging ahead of a winter storm that is bearing down before Christmas weekend, experts warn of the potential dangers linked to exposure to the cold.

During an appearance on NewNation’s “Live,” Dr. Jeremy Cauwels, chief physician at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls City, South Dakota, said it doesn’t take a lot of time for frostbite or hypothermia to set in.

“If you end up exposed in this kind of temperature, you’re really talking about minutes for frostbite,” Cauwels said. “It could be less than 10.”

According to Cauwels, frostbite symptoms include redness, numbness or pain, “even evolving into sort of a waxy feeling” on the skin as it gets even colder.

“You want to make sure that if you’re experiencing those symptoms, you can get that exposed skin covered and hopefully out of the elements as soon as possible,” Cauwels said.

If you do experience the symptoms of frostbite, there is a way to warm up safely.

“I think the first part is just to make sure you can either cover it or get it someplace where it can maintain sort of a room temperature warmth,” Cauwels said. “What you don’t want to be doing is running things under particularly hot water or extremes of temperature, but rather just to make sure you’re doing everything you can to get back to a normal temperature as smoothly and quickly as possible.”

Hypothermia is really when the whole body starts to get that cold, according to Cauwels.

“And when it does, the important part is to recognize that your brain isn’t going to work like it’s supposed to,” he said. “You can go all the way from shivering and exhaustion, to confusion and memory loss. And as you’re doing that, to recognize that and make sure you can get somebody else to help you is absolutely key.”

If you do experience the symptoms of hypothermia, Cauwels suggested a call to your local medical provider or a nearby friend as time may be a factor.

“There’s a time for any illness where we can make a difference,” Cauwels said. “And unfortunately, these kinds of weather patterns really make it difficult for us to get to people in that appropriate time.

As hospitals across the country are inundated with flu, RSV and COVID-19 cases, accessing care can sometimes be difficult.

Cauwels said his hospital has been busy to the point of being at or above capacity.

“The roads are closed, the airports are closed and finding assistance sometimes is extremely difficult,” Cauwels said. “Video visits right now have revolutionized health care and I think this is the perfect time to use them. It gives your doctor the ability to use your cellphone to take a look at what you’re concerned about, as well as to have a sit-down conversation about what you can do to help yourself.”

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