Paramedics: Bundle up and cover exposed skin to prevent frostbite

Posted at 10:14 AM, Jan 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-16 11:22:20-05

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- The Overland Park Fire Department is warning you to dress in layers and cover extremities like toes and ears if you go outside. The 41 Action News weather team predicts wind chills across Kansas City will drop to dangerously low levels Tuesday, with some areas expereincing a "feels like" temperature of -25 degrees.

The Mayo Clinic says frostbite can occur after being exposed to wind chills of -16 degrees for 30 minutes.

Before frostbite sets in, OPFD says you may suffer from "frost nip" as well. Frost nip is a more mild form of frostbite. It doesn't do any permanent damage, but causes irritation, redness and numbness. 

Frostbite sets in when ice begins to crystalize in your skin. It requires medical treatment. 

To demonstrate how layers of clothing protect you from the cold, OPFD Fire Medic Erin Allen used a thermal imaging camera. It showed the difference in temperature between a person's hand with and without a glove. The hand without a glove lost all its body heat, making it more vulnerable to frostbite. 

"Exposed skin is the enemy," Allen described the approach to staying warm.

He explained wearing layers of clothing traps body heat. When Fire Medics treat patients in the elements, they cover them in multiple thin blankets. 

Allen said you should seek medical help if your joints start to hurt, or freeze, if your skin blisters or begins to lose its color. 

Here are signs and symptoms of frostbite, according to the Mayo Clinic. For more information, click here.

    •    At first, cold skin and a prickling feeling
    •    Numbness
    •    Red, white, bluish-white or grayish-yellow skin
    •    Hard or waxy-looking skin
    •    Clumsiness due to joint and muscle stiffness
    •    Blistering after rewarming, in severe cases