Protect against cold weather and frostbite

Protect against cold weather and frostbite

From the Student Health Service

The Student Health Service advises students to protect themselves against frostbite, a medical condition that damages skin and other tissues due to extreme cold (at or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius).

When your body is exposed to cold for too long, your body will start to protect itself by narrowing blood vessels that are close to the skin, thus reducing blood flow. The combination of low blood flow and cold temperature can freeze the skin tissue and can cause severe injury.

Although people don't always know or acknowledge these dangers, many of the dangers can be reduced or prevented.

Here's how you can protect yourself from frostbite:

  • Layers are best.
  • Mittens are better than gloves; they keep your warm fingers together so they can warm each other.
  • Wear two pairs of socks with the inner layer made of synthetic fiber, such as polypropylene, to wick water away from the skin. The outer layer should be made of wool for increased insulation.
  • Shoes should be waterproof.
  • Always cover your head, face, nose and ears during severe cold temperatures.
  • Clothes should fit loosely to avoid a decrease in blood flow to the arms and legs.
  • Always travel with a friend in case help is needed.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • People who have diabetes and anyone with vessel disease as well as people who are very young, very old or are physically unconditioned should take extra precautions.
  • Be especially wary of wet and windy conditions. The "feels like" temperature (wind chill factor) is much lower than the stated air temperature.

How do I know if I have frostbite?

Generally, frostbite is accompanied by discoloration of the skin, along with burning and/or tingling sensations, partial or complete numbness, and, possibly, intense pain. If frostbite is severe and left untreated, frostbitten skin gradually darkens after a few hours. Skin destroyed by frostbite is completely black and looks loose and flayed, as if burned.

For more information about frostbite visit the WebMD Web site.

If you suspect that you have experienced frostbite, seek medical care by contacting the Student Health Service, (651) 962-6750.