DENVER (KDVR) — An arctic front arrives in Colorado on Wednesday, and temperatures are expected to drop to dangerous levels.
Frostbite and hypothermia are two dangerous conditions associated with extreme cold, but what are the differences between the two, and how can you protect yourself from both?
What is frostbite?
According to UCHealth, frostbite is damage to the skin caused by exposure to cold temperatures. The condition leads to a loss of color in the affected areas, usually extremities.
Frostbite can cause permanent damage, and in severe cases can lead to amputation of the impacted body part.
Symptoms of frostbite include redness and pain in the exposed area, numbness, white or grayish-yellow skin and skin that is unusually firm or waxy.
People with poor blood circulation and those not properly dressed for extreme cold have a greater chance of developing frostbite.
According to UCHealth, it can only take 30 minutes for frostbite to set in when temperatures are 5 degrees and the wind is 30 mph. At -5 degrees and 30 mph, frostbite can occur in 10 minutes.
A person who is experiencing frostbite should seek medical care.
However, UCHealth’s Burn and Frostbite Center gave tips on what to do if you suspect you or someone else may be experiencing frostbite:
- Prevent additional exposure to the cold.
- Rewarm the impacted area in warm (but not hot) water for 15 to 30 minutes.
- Elevate the impacted area to reduce swelling.
- Use over-the-counter pain medication if the impacted area is painful after warming.
- Avoid walking on frostbitten feet.
What is hypothermia?
Hypothermia is when body temperature dips to dangerous levels. It is caused by prolonged exposure to very cold temperatures, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In adults, symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, memory loss and drowsiness.
Symptoms in babies include bright red, cold skin and very low energy.
Hypothermia requires emergency medical care and can lead to cardiac arrest and death if not treated.
The CDC said if you are unable to get medical help right away, try to warm the person up by getting them into a warm room or shelter and removing any wet clothing they are wearing.
Warm drinks can also help increase body temperature. However, do not give alcoholic drinks to a person suffering from hypothermia.
How do you protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia?
The CDC said people should try to avoid going outdoors during extreme cold.
However, if you must go outside, you need to dress properly. The CDC suggests a hat, a scarf that covers your face and mouth, a water-resistant coat, mittens or gloves, several layers of loose-fitting clothing and water-resistant boots.