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Ask Dr. Nandi: How to stay safe in extreme cold

Detroit Deals With Heavy Snow And Bitter Cold
Posted at 2:33 PM, Jan 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-29 08:27:06-05

(WXYZ) — As the winter weather advisory continues and we expect extreme bitter temperatures in the coming days, it’s important to know how to stay safe when outdoors.

Question: What are the biggest concerns when it comes to being outside?
It’s surprising the number of folks who know it’s colder out but don’t dress any differently than they usually do. And this can put them at risk for two potentially dangerous conditions: frostbite and hypothermia. Now frostbite is when skin and body tissue freeze. And complications can include nerve damage and infection. Now with hypothermia, it means your body can’t produce enough heat and your temperature has fallen below 95 F. You heart and organs struggle to work, and if left untreated, hypothermia can lead to death.

Question: How long can you stay safe outside in these cold temperatures?
There are several factors to consider: the wind chill temperature, how long you plan to stay outside, what you’ll be wearing and if you’re wet or dry. If you get wet or sweaty, you’ll get colder a whole lot faster. And why I want you to look at the wind chill temperature is because it combines the outside temp with the wind speed. These two combined tell you how cold it will actually feel when you step outside. And if there are cold winds, your risk of hypothermia increases. Also, frostbite can happen in a matter of minutes in the extreme cold. The National Weather Service has an online Wind Chill Chart that predicts frostbite times. You can find it here.

Question: What are can we do to stay safe?
I’ve got those answers in my prescriptions:

1. It’s important to keep your torso area warm. Dress in loose layers as tight clothes can affect your circulation.

2. Wear moisture-wicking clothes like polyester or microfiber as your first layer. Avoid cotton as it absorbs sweat and dries slowly.

3. Choose mittens that keep your fingers together. They’ll stay warmer for a longer time.

4. Cover exposed skin like your cheeks, chin, and ears– as they have a higher risk of frostbite.

And be sure to know the danger warning signs. If you experience numbing, white waxy skin, uncontrollable shivering, slurred speech, and exhaustion, be sure to get medical help right away.