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Cold Air Dangers

By Kelli Grant
Published: December 11, 2009, 6:10 PM

Even if you haven't spent much time outside lately, you know it's been plenty cold in KELOLAND.

And if you have to spend time outdoors, you know that cold can stick with you hours after trying to warm up. Those frigid temperatures aren't only difficult to bear, they can be down right dangerous.

Wearing a coat on a day like today seems like common sense. But you really need more than just this to get through the winter months...and you need to know what dangerous signs to look for if you're caught without it.

If you work outside you likely know to wear layers in weather like this. But most people don't layer on gloves or mittens, which is why when it comes to your hands, the cold air can affect them quickly.

“As I get older and I shovel my driveway, I notice I get less and less tolerant of the cold and the first thing that starts to happen is my fingertips start to hurt,” said Dr. Chris Carlisle with Sanford Trauma 5.

Sanford Trauma 5 Physician Dr. Chris Carlisle says when your fingers start to hurt it's time to go inside.

“If you don't do that, if you don't go in and warm your fingers up periodically, then they stop hurting and that's a bad sign because that means the nerves are damaged and you can't feel the pain anymore,” Carlisle said.

Here's what to look for: Superficial frostbite is characterized by burning, numbness or tingling. Signs of deep frostbite are swelling and blood-filled blisters over white or yellowish skin. The affected area can also look waxy or turn purple.

“They're like burns. It depends on how deep and how many layers of skin are involved. And that's not always apparent when we see somebody right off the bat,” said Carlisle.

To avoid another serious medical condition called Hypothermia, dress in layers, wear a hat, scarf and gloves. But Carlisle says fortunately hypothermia isn't seen all that often in emergency rooms.

“The things you read about where your car gets stuck in the road and you have to hike five miles for help and you get hypothermic as a result of that - that stuff doesn't happen anymore,” said Carlisle.

Carlisle says cell phones and people being aware of the dangers of wind chills have helped more people stay safe.

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