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Avoiding Time Outside Strongly Recommended

By Kelli Grant
Published: January 7, 2010, 6:02 PM

The bitter cold wind chills are making it nearly impossible to stay outside for a long period of time. Even if you plan on making a quick trip out in the elements, the cold air could take you by surprise and leave you stranded.

Wearing a hat, gloves, maybe even something to cover your face may not be enough if you're outside. These kinds of wind chills can quickly overcome a person and can cause death.

Temperatures struggled Thursday to reach zero and the cold snap isn't over yet. Dangerous wind chills are making venturing outdoors just that.

"We don't just feel it. But it has all the same effects as if it were really that cold," Sanford Trauma 5 Physician Dr. Chris Carlisle said.

Carlisle is talking about frostbite and hypothermia, two serious cold weather related injuries.

"You've got only a few minutes outside before systems start to shut down," Carlisle said.

Once hypothermia sets in, your muscles literally stop working and if you're outside, you're likely trapped and can die from exposure.

"Things start to shut down. Your muscles don't work anymore and you can hardly walk and eventually you can't and that's the problem, you can't get out of the cold," Carlisle said.

Frostbite can be just as serious.

"Once tissues freeze and form ice crystals inside them, the ice crystals are sharp and they start splitting cells open and damaging tissue," Carlisle said.

Cold related injuries are one reason interstates shut down and travel isn't advised.

"If you slide off in the ditch and you get out even for a few minutes to try to dig yourself you, you'll do some damage," Carlisle said.

If you work outdoors, bundle up. But remember to take breaks, especially if the weather begins to take its toll.
"If your fingers are cold on the snow blower and they're really starting to hurt, then you should stop and go inside. And you can run a little warm water on them. If you keep going and they stop hurting, that's a bad sign," Carlisle said.

A sign that you need to see a doctor and fast before the damage becomes irreversible.

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