What you need to know about frostbite

MISSOULA - Across the state people are seeing some of the coldest temperatures of the season. With people heading to school and work in frigid temperatures, here is what you need to know about frostbite if you work in outdoor conditions or if your child must wait outside for the school bus.

There are three phases of cold. The first is feeling the cold outside air, the second is a burning sensation, and the last is a numb feeling which happens most commonly in fingers and toes. This means that the nerves are frozen or dying, and that is also an indication of frostbite.

According to Jeff Welch, critical care medic and assistant manager at Missoula Emergency Services Inc., when outside temperatures are between 20 and 10 degrees with wind, frostbite can happen in less than ten minutes.

If you feel symptoms of frostbite, emergency medical technicians say the big thing is to never directly put hot water on the area of frostbite. Instead, you will want to slowly re-warm the area by first using cool water and being in a place that you can stay consistently warm.

"Passively warming them is the best thing, some small warming stuff, but never direct hot water, that can damage the nerves and kill the nerves," said Welch.

If you feel like you have frostbite, get out of the cold exposure, change into new clothing that is around room temperature, and then start to slowly re-warm your body without blasting hot heat or hot water onto your skin.

Emergency medical technicians say the best way to prevent frostbite is by putting a good base layer, layering with loose layers to help insulate your body, and covering up as much of your skin as you can with gloves, hats, or face masks.

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