Snow is one thing but bitter, arctic temperatures are a whole different ball game.

This bitter cold snap that Southwest Michigan and the greater Midwest has been experiencing chills me to the bone.

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Just because we Michiganders are used to dealing with Lake Effect snow every winter, that doesn't mean we have to like it! In fact, Lake Michigan has actually been keeping us relatively warm during the recent snowpocalypse.

Just remember: we don't have alligators, earthquake or hurricanes-- usually.

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Weather forecasters say we can expect these below-freezing temperatures to persist across our area throughout the next several days and I'm sure you've seen all those posts about freezing pipes, but those could be the least of your worries if you're unfamiliar with the signs of frostbite.

If you absolutely must be outdoors in these conditions here are some tips to keep your tips and avoid frostbite:

What is Frostbite?

Frostbite is the freezing of skin and tissue as a result of exposure to extreme cold. Injury often occurs over an extended period of exposure, but in some extreme cases, frostbite can happen in a matter of minutes.

The precursor to frostbite, frostnip, is not quite as serious and can be treated by re-warming, but with frostbite, permanent damage can occur and in severe cases may require amputation.

Dana Marshall
Dana Marshall
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Symptoms of Frostbite

Sometimes it can be hard to know whether you're suffering from frostbite or not because your extremities are so numb! Here are the physical signs of frostbite to look out for according to John Hopkins Medicine:

  • Redness or pain in a skin area, in extreme cases fluid or blood-filled blisters
  • White or grayish-yellow skin area
  • Even worse, black gangrene tissue
  • Firm or waxy-looking skin
  • Fever

How to Treat Frostbite

Depending on the severity of the frostbite medical attention may be required. In order to prevent further damage it's important that the tissue doesn't re-freeze after thawing, so don't treat frostbite until you're in a safe, warm space where re-freezing isn't possible.

If help isn't immediately available here are some ways to treat frostbite in the meantime:

  • Remove wet clothing and find warmth ASAP
  • Cover the person in blankets
  • Soak the affected area in warm, not hot, water. But do not soak longer than 30 minutes
  • Wash the affected area, dry, and wrap with sterile gauze to prevent infection
  • Do not rub the frostbitten tissue
  • Do not use anything hot like a heating pad to warm the area as it may burn due to numbness

They call Michigan the Winter-Water Wonderland for a reason, we love to enjoy the great outdoors no matter the season! However, if you plan to hit the trails on the snowmobile, go snow-shoeing, hit the slopes, go ice fishing, or plan to be outside for any period of time be sure to bundle up!

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Gallery Credit: Lauren Gordon

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