(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) The bone-chilling cold settling in over our area is not only unpleasant but it can also be dangerous.
With temperatures expected to fall to -20 below Wednesday, doctors from the The University of Kansas Health System warn that frostbite can happen quickly.
"With the cold that we have even exposure of 15 minutes to 30 minutes can lead to really, really bad injury," said Dr. Dhaval Bhavsar with the Burnett Burn Center.
Most frostbite injuries occur to the hands and feet. Doctors said pain, numbness, and blue or purple colored skin are all signs to look out for.
"When tissue gets exposed to cold for a long time ice crystals start forming in the tissue, blood vessels get slowed down and when tissue does not get oxygen for a long time it will gradually die," Dr. Bhavsar said. "When it is a severe type of injury it can lead to loss of fingers, loss of toes and in worse situations loss of part of a hand or foot."
If you think you have frostbite, Dr. Bhavsar warns against trying to warm up too quickly and avoid doing things like putting your hand under hot water.
"Because tissue that remains under hot water for a long time will, in fact, get more injury," Dr. Bhavsar said. "The best is what we call gradual re-warming. It means have layers and remain in a warm environment. You can be in front of a fireplace but make sure you have layers, so that it is not directly 80 degrees celsius of temperature is touching your hand and is gradually going through the layers and maintain the heat."
Doctors say the best advice is to stay indoors when it's below 20 degrees. If you have to be outside, dress in as many layers as possible, wear protective gloves, hats, socks and shoes, and avoid getting your hands and feet wet.