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Recognize signs to avoid skin damage.

When the temperature dips below freezing, it is critical to protect your skin from cold-weather health risks. Frostbite occurs when the skin --and sometimes the tissue beneath it--freezes due to prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. Depending on how frozen the tissue and how long it has been in that state, frostbite can result in severe, sometimes permanent, damage.

"Frostbite usually affects the face, nose, ears, fingers, and toes. So, on bitterly cold days, it's not enough to just put on a winter coat," cautions Amy J. Derick, clinical instructor of dermatology at Northwestern University, Chicago, III. "To really protect your skin from dangerously low temperatures, keep an eye on the weather, dress appropriately for outdoor activities, and stay dry."

To prevent frostbite:

* Dress in loose, light, comfortable layers to help trap warm air. The first layer should be made of a synthetic material, which wicks moisture away from your body. The next layer should be insulating. Wool and fleece are good insulators and hold in more body heat than cotton. The top layer should be windproof and waterproof. A down parka and ski pants can help keep you dry and warm during outdoor activities.

* To protect your feet and toes, wear two pairs of socks. The first pair, next to your skin, should be made of moisture-wicking fabric. Place a pair of wool or wool-blend socks on top of those. Your boots also should provide adequate insulation. They should be waterproof and cover your ankles. Make sure that nothing feels tight, as tight clothing increases the risk of frostbite.

* To protect your ears and head, wear a heavy wool or fleece hat. If you are outside on a bitterly cold day, cover your face with a scarf or face mask. This warms the air you breathe.

* To protect your hands, wear insulated mittens or gloves.

* Make sure snow cannot get inside of your boots or clothing, as wet clothing increases the risk of developing frostbite. While outdoors, if you start to sweat, cut back on your activity or unzip your jacket a bit.

* Keep yourself hydrated. Even if you are not thirsty, drink at least one glass of water before you head outside, and always drink water or a sports drink before an outdoor workout--and avoid alcohol.

* To detect frostbite early, when it is most treatable, look for the signs: redness and a stinging, burning, throbbing, or prickling sensation followed by numbness. If this occurs, head indoors right away.

"If you experience symptoms of frostbite, try to gradually bring feeling back into the body," advises Derick. "Never rub frostbitten skin or submerge your hands or feet directly into hot water--use warm water or a warm washcloth instead. If you do not feel sensation returning to your body, or if the skin begins to turn gray, go to an emergency room immediately."

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Title Annotation:Frostbite
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2015
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