Protecting yourself from potentially deadly freezing temps

By Philippe Djegal - email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - East Texans are dealing with conditions we haven't seen in years. So, for many of us, the dangers that come along with such cold temperatures are unknown. But, it doesn't have to be freezing outside for you to freeze to death.

"If you're wet and unable to prevent heat loss, even people that are, say, merged in a lake with 60 degrees - 70 degrees over a prolonged period of time, they can lose enough body temperature that they can enter a hypothermic phase and eventually die," said Dr. Mark Anderson, an emergency physician with Trinity Mother Frances Hospitals and Clinics.

Hypothermia sets in when you can no longer control your body's temperature.

"[If] they don't have adequate clothes on, they're out working outside or exercising outside, or, perhaps, they're elderly or confused or have other illnesses as well," he said.

It happens in stages. Normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees. If you're body temp slips below 82 degrees, it can be deadly Anderson says.

"Then, you enter the severe hypothermia stage, and really, mortality's eminent at that point, you can die from that," said Anderson.

Children are the most susceptible to hypothermia.

"They lose body heat very rapidly," said Anderson

So, make sure to cover up. And, don't forget your fingers, ears and nose because frost bite poses a significant risk to your health.

"If it gets cold enough, ice crystals can actually form in the tissues [and] actually freeze the tissue solid," said Anderson.

This could lead to your skin blistering, even burning. Motorcyclists without a helmet and joggers are at an increased risk of frost bite, because of a wind chill effect. When you're exposed to low temperatures…

"The body actually shunts blood away from the areas when it has to preserve temperature in the core in order to survive," said Anderson.

Shivering is a warning sign your temperature is dropping. It is the body's natural way of creating heat. So when you start to shake, it is a good idea to stop what you are doing and warm up.

According to the national weather service, the time it takes to develop frost bite depends on the conditions. If the temperature is below zero degrees, you could get frost bite in as little as five minutes. And, drink warm beverages when out in the cold, even if you are just getting a workout.

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