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How dangerous are these frigid temperatures?

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Posted at 6:47 AM, Dec 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-08 08:47:51-05

DENVER – Temperatures in the Denver area dropped below zero Thursday morning, raising concerns about frostbite.

Experts say that exposure to sub-zero temperatures and wind could freeze your skin in just 15 minutes.

Most people out for a short time in the cold air will suffer from frostnip and not frostbite. Frostnip is a near freezing of the skin but not as severe as the more dangerous deeper tissue freezing that is frostbite. Frostnip and frostbite affect any exposed areas, especially on the face as well as the fingers and toes.

The first symptoms you will feel are a "pins and needles" sensation followed by numbness. There may be an early throbbing or aching, but as more freezing of the skin takes place, the affected part becomes insensate or feels like a "block of wood".

Frostbitten skin is hard, pale, cold, and has no feeling. When skin has thawed out, it becomes red and painful (early frostbite). With more severe frostbite, the skin may appear white and numb (tissue has started to freeze). Severe frostbite requires immediate medical attention.

If you think you have frostnip or frostbite, there are more don'ts than do's.

  • Do NOT rub or massage the affected area. That can cause more damage to the frostbitten area.
  • Do NOT thaw out a frostbitten area if it cannot be kept thawed. Refreezing may make tissue damage even worse.
  • Do NOT use direct dry heat (such as a radiator, campfire, heating pad, or hair dryer) to thaw the frostbitten areas. Direct heat can burn the tissues that are already damaged.
  • Do NOT disturb blisters on frostbitten skin.
  • Do NOT smoke or drink alcoholic beverages during recovery as both can interfere with blood circulation.

Wear suitable clothing in cold temperatures and protect exposed areas. In cold weather, wear mittens (not gloves); wind-proof, water-resistant, many-layered clothing; two pairs of socks (cotton next to skin, then wool); and a hat or scarf that covers the ears (to avoid substantial heat loss through the scalp).

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