Bitter Cold Temps, Wind Chills Can Be Dangerous


It doesn't take much time out in those bitter cold temperatures before it can start to become dangerous.

Lansing resident Julie Raborn spent her Friday evening after work shoveling her driveway in the bitter cold.

"It's freezing, I can't feel my hands at this point," she said. "I absolutely love Michigan, but not at the moment."

Raborn was sure to dress accordingly though with boots, a scarf and a hat.

But with temps headed toward record lows coupled with wind chills turning icy cold, even with good gear, Dr. Melody Angel M.D. at McLaren Redi Care-South said spending 30 minutes to an hour shoveling can become dangerous.

"When it's this cold, with the wind chill factor particularly," she said. "If there's wind or cold that's well below freezing then even a short period of time can quite quickly start affecting your ears and things that are small areas and exposed."

The early onset of frostbite turns skin bright red and comes with a pins-and-needles feeling.

"Especially if you're shoveling without gloves and the instrument you're holding onto has some metal on it, that can make it accelerate a lot faster," Angel said.

And without gloves, the onset of frostbite can take only a matter of minutes. But if it becomes severe enough, there usually isn't any pain at all.

"If you have pain and burning and discomfort that's actually a good sign, you still have time to do something about it," Angel said.

"If it hurts, don't do it.. get inside, warm up with gloves on and something on your head."

If someone believes they're starting to get frostbite, Dr. Angel recommends running hands or any other affected body part under cool water to warm it up slowly. The worst remedy is to place frostbitten hands into hot water because the temperature shock could potentially cause more tissue damage.

Angel said taking breaks is crucial to staying safe if out in the cold. While on those breaks she suggests getting yourself "superheated" to build up the body's core temperature before heading back out to prolong the onset of hypothermia.


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