Avera Medical Minute: Avoiding winter weather injuries

Published: Dec. 16, 2021 at 2:16 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The months of December, January, and February are usually associated with what is often described as dreadful weather such as below freezing temperatures and an abundance of ice. Winter often surprises us earlier than December and lingers past February, giving us plenty of time to be aware of some dangers associated with the season. A slippery surface is bound to get the best of someone sooner or later, frostbite could set in sooner than you may think, and hypothermia could do the same. Dr. Hilary Rockwell with Avera Health says carbon monoxide exposure is also frequent this time of year with furnaces running throughout the months.

Frostbite is visually hard to miss on your body and usually appears on hands, feet, nose, ears, or places that do not have great blood flow. The exposure combined with the cold (factor in the wind) freezes tissue, constricts blood vessels, and forms ice crystals. If you are caught outside and professional medical help is not immediately available it is imperative to have a plan.

“With frostbite, the important thing is are you able to rewarm effectively and keep it warm,” said Dr. Rockwell. “If you are going to out in the cold for a long time, it is actually better not to try to rewarm until you know you can warm up that hand or foot and it will stay warm. If you warm it and refreeze you’re going to have more injury rather than just letting it stay cold at that time.”

She adds that the best rewarming would be through water such as a warm water bath. It does not have to be hot, but it needs to be warmer than the extremity you are rewarming.

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