Protecting Yourself From Extreme Cold

Tips to prevent frostbite and hypothermia. 

Posted: 01/29/2013 04:15 AM EST

With temperatures dipping into the single digits with below zero wind chills, it's obvious winter is in full effect.

Extreme cold can pose serious health problems such as heart attack, stroke and asthma attacks, reported HealthDay News. And don't forget about frostbite and hypothermia.

Frostbite is when the tissue — mostly in our extremities — freezes due to long exposure in extreme cold temperatures, whether unprotected or even protected. It usually causes a loss of feeling in your nose, cheeks, chin, toes, fingers and ears.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), common symptoms include:

-A white or grayish-yellow skin area

-Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy

-Numbness

Frostbite can be mild, moderate and serious. It's best to seek medical care if you suspect that you or a loved one may have frostbite. 

Hypothermia — abnormally low body temperature of 98 degrees or below — happens when you've been outside in freezing temps for a long period of time. Also, it's more serious than frostbite.

Common symptoms include:

In Adults:

-Shivering, exhaustion

-Confusion, fumbling hands

-Memory loss, slurred speech

-Drowsiness

In Infants/Toddlers:

-Bright red, cold skin

-Very low energy

Hypothermia is a medical emergency and can lead to death if untreated. If you suspect that someone may be suffering from it, call 911 immediately.

The good news is that both ailments are preventable. Web MD offers up these tips:

-Dress for the weather, which means a warm, heavy winter coat!

-Layer your clothing and try opting for mittens instead of gloves — they keep your fingers warmer.

-Wear two pairs of socks, preferably wool. Look for waterproof shoes to protect your toes from getting wet and freezing.

-Cover your head, face, nose and ears at all times.

-Opt for loose fitting clothes. They help increase the blood flow in your arms and legs.

-If possible, in extreme weather, try traveling with a friend in case help is needed.

The key to surviving the winter is being smart about the weather. Our advice: When it's really cold out, if you don't have to be outside, stay inside.

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(Photo: Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

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