Fingers are one of the first body parts to feel the effects of the cold and damp and along with toes, ears and the nose are frequently subjected to frostbite and even amputation," Dr. Arthur Sanford of the Loyola University Health System, said in a statement. "Better to fat finger a text due to wearing winter gloves than to lose a finger due to the cold."
Frostbite is most likely to happen in body parts farthest from the heart and those with large exposed areas, Sanford said. "Blood vessels start to constrict at or below 32 degrees Celsius [89.6 degrees Fahrenheit] to preserve body temperature. The lack of blood in areas of the body can lead to freezing and the death of skin tissue."
Sanford said he treats frostbite in people of all ages.
"The old lady who goes out in the snow to get her mail, falls, breaks a hip and lays in the cold and wet for hours until being discovered is a typical victim of frostbite," Sanford says. "But the younger person who goes on a drinking bender and walks home in the snow and damp is also a familiar sight at Loyola trauma."
When suffering from prolonged exposure to cold, use room temperature or slightly warm water to gently revitalize the body.
"Do not use hot water, do not rub with handfuls of snow and do not vigorously massage the frozen area," Sanford warns. "Overstimulation can actually worsen the situation."
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