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What is frostbite and how can you stop it from setting in?

Posted at 11:12 PM, Jan 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-05 07:26:41-05

This weekend the wind is going to be so cold, frostbite can take hold in 30 minutes in Baltimore, and it could take only 10 in other parts of Maryland.

Dr. Ryan Zimmerman with Curtis National Hand Center specializes in treating frostbite.

He said when exposed body parts get cold the cells inside them freeze, that can cause tissue damage and blood clots.

"The first stage that you'll notice will be the part becoming red swollen and painful,” said Zimmerman. “In the later stages, it will actually become pail firm and numb. Noticing the first signs where it becomes a little bit different than just a normal body part that's cold it's really red and swollen and painful."

If you don't get that part of your body warm quick you may find yourself on a surgeons table.

“Severe frostbite can even lead to amputation so our goal really is we don't want your business,” said Zimmerman. “We're really happy not to have any cases of frostbite or have to treat anybody with frostbite this year."

Zimmerman said most cases can be treated without surgery, but being prepared is your best defense.

“You do want to rewarm the part to a normal temperature,” said Zimmerman.  “If you go through a number of cycles where the part freezes thaw out and then freezes again that can actually be even worse than just a single episode.”

If you have blisters forming or if you're not getting back to normal in a few minutes after putting head on your exposed part, that means it’s time to see a doctor.
To avoid getting on the surgeons table, wear layers and cover your exposed skin (fingers, nose, ears).