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Preventing Frosbite

December 25, 2009
Reinbeck Courier

Bitterly cold air has moved into Iowa, following a blizzard that roared across most of the state. The heavy snowfall combined with drifting from the high winds has resulted in cancelled classes for many Iowa school children. The deep snow provides the perfect opportunity for sledding, snowman making and other outdoor activities; however, the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) reminds Iowans to protect themselves against the extremely cold air and the wind chill. Iowans should be aware of the dangers of frostbite and hypothermia during such severely cold conditions.

Frostbite is an injury to the body caused by freezing. It most often affects exposed parts of the body like the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes. Severe cases of frostbite can lead to amputation. "If you do go outdoors, dress warmly and stay dry," said IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. "Parents especially need to remind children to wear a hat and a scarf to cover their face and mouth. Choose mittens over gloves because mittens keep your hands warmer." Multiple layers of clothes are better than one piece of heavy clothing.

Signs of frostbite include white or grayish-yellow patches of skin, skin that feels unusually firm or waxy, or numbness. A person is often unaware of frostbite until someone else points it out because the frozen tissues are numb.

If you must be outside for any length of time, make sure you frequently check yourself and your children for these signs. If your skin shows these signs of freezing, go into a warm place immediately. Warm up frozen/chilled skin by pressing against normal temperature skin (put frozen fingers in arm pits). DO NOT massage frozen/chilled skin; DO NOT rub with snow; and DO NOT place hot items against the cold skin as this could cause more damage. Seek medical attention if skin does not quickly return to normal color and sensation.

More information on preventing frostbite and other winter health precautions can be found at



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