Frostbite & Hypothermia: Safety and prevention

ISHPEMING —  Being outdoors is a staple of living in the Upper Peninsula, and the cold weather goes right along with it. With the frigid, windy conditions much of the UP is seeing tonight, it’s crucial to remember to protect ourselves against frostbite and even hypothermia.

“We have a slightly warm blanket of air surrounding our bodies,” said Michael Prevost, M.D. Physician at UPHS Bell. “Even our exposed skin has this thin air, but once you through wind into the picture it throws away that mild thermal blanket and the tissues freeze much more quickly.”

Frostbite occurs when the tissues in our extremities, like our ears, fingers, and toes, become damaged, burned, or even blistered. Some symptoms may not be noticed right away, and Dr. Prevost at UPHS Bell says to always be aware of your condition and those you’re with.

“Sometimes with frostbite it can be hard to tell, but somebody  else may see your face and realize your cheeks, the high point on your cheeks, in this area that they have turned white,” said Dr. Prevost. “You may not feel it until it thaws out and then blisters or burns.”

In extreme cases of exposure to the cold, a person may experience hypothermia, which signals that a person’s internal temperature is falling below 90 degrees. Doctors have also found that sweating can be a factor when it comes to developing a case of hypothermia.

Tomorrow afternoon for example, those competing in the Noquemenon Ski Races will have to monitor themselves, as they’re dressed in layers.

“With excessive sweating and exercise, as long as, it is maintained and the bodies metabolism is up and we are generating heat that will be okay,” explained Dr. Prevost. “Its when someone stops and that sweat evaporates off. If you don’t get that wet clothing off and put some dry clothing on and get into a warm environment. That is when skiers are going to be at the most risk.”

For most that live in this area, the cold is nothing new. But your safety outdoors is something that should never be overlooked.