As Minnesotans, we are generally pretty prepared and deal well with low temperatures, but for the past week or so, we have been experiencing a particularly cold snap. It’s never a bad idea to refresh your memory on some tips to avoid and identify frostbite.

Frostbite is the freezing of the skin and the underlying tissues, and it can result in numbness, nerve damage and in severe cases, amputation. When the air temperature drops, the risk of frostbite increases, and frostbite can occur in less then 30 minutes. Exposed skin is the very vulnerable, and the most common places that get frostbite are fingers, toes, the nose, ears, cheeks and chin.

To avoid getting frostbite, try to limit your time spent outdoors. When you are outside, dress appropriately, wear several layers, making sure to wear good boots, a hat, mittens and scarf. Drinking alcohol and smoking can make the body more susceptible to cold conditions. If your clothing gets wet, change into dry items as soon as possible.

Common symptoms of frostbite include a prickly sensation or numbness, and red followed by white or grayish colored skin. Skin also can feel firm or waxy, and may blister after being warmed up.

Should you notice any of the symptoms or suspect frostbite, get into a warm place immediately. Avoid walking on feet with frostbitten toes or using hands that may be frostbitten if possible, because that can make it worse. Additionally, do not massage the affected area, because that can result in more damage. If you experience blistering, do not break the blisters. Immerse the skin in warm, but not hot, water. Do not use a heating pad, or the heat off of a stove or a fireplace to warm yourself, affected areas may be numb and could easily be burned. Most importantly, if you think you may have frostbite, seek medical attention right away! For more information, check out Mayo Clinic and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

And remember, if it’s too cold for you outside, it’s too cold for your animals. Bring them into a warm area.

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