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Local doctor shares warning signs of both hypothermia and frostbite

The freezing temperatures in the Midwest can result in hypothermia and frostbite. Doctors urge people to keep themselves and their children safe during this winter season.

Posted: Feb 15, 2021 10:07 PM
Updated: Feb 16, 2021 9:12 AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) The Midwest is experiencing record breaking freezing temperatures this winter.  As the weather falls into the below zero temperatures, one local doctor shares her concerns and tips to staying warm.

"Cold actually kills more people than heat, so there's actually more related death to cold temperatures, not heat stroke in the summer that people think about," said Dr. Cynthia Brownfield of Mosaic Life Care.

The pediatrician said that anyone can experience hypothermia, but babies, young children and elderly people are at risk the most.

"The problem is with those groups, they can't tell they're getting cold. And so by the time it's recognized that they're getting cold, it's pretty advanced in that hypothermia, so they have a higher risk of severe complications."

According to the CDC, hypothermia is prolonged exposure to very cold temperatures.  The warning signs for hypothermia in adults are shivering, exhaustion or feeling very tired, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness.  Very low energy and bright red and cold skin are the signs of hypothermia in babies.

Dr. Brownfield also raises a concern in children freezing.  "If you are wearing the same clothes as your child is wearing, would you be warm? They don't complain that their hands are numb--their hands are hurting," said Brownfield.  "So really making sure that children have their extremities covered. Thick socks, good boots, nice gloves, a hat one, protecting the tips of their ears and the tips of their nose."

Dr. Brownfield suggests if you're trying to help someone that's suffering from hypothermia, you can use a warm blanket for their central core to warm them up. 

"If you think someone is actually suffering from frostbite you don't want to put it in hot water, you want to put it in warm water. You have to remember that if your fingers are suffering from frostbite, they go numb. You cannot feel the hot temperatures. If you use too hot of water or put it close to a fire you can actually cause burns on top of the hypothermia."

Here are the official health guidelines from the CDC in concerns of hypothermia and frostbite.

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Dangerous heat will move into the area today with highs reaching the upper 90s to triple digits. Heat index values will likely be between 100-106. Use caution when spending time outside this afternoon. Hot and humid conditions will continue on Friday with highs back in the upper 90s and lower 100s with heat index values reaching triple digits. A cold front will move through the area Friday afternoon into the evening bringing the chance for a few showers and thunderstorms. Scattered rain chances will continue through the weekend with highs in the lower 90s. Highs in the 80s will return for the beginning of next week.
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