As we very well know here in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin, some days during the winter season can be brutal. Especially when single-digit and sub-zero wind chills are in the discussion. Exposure to the extreme cold without taking the necessary precautions can cause serious health issues and can occur within a matter of minutes. 

As with most things, toddlers and seniors are the most at risk but overall, everyone needs to do their part in keeping themselves and their loved ones safe.

First, we have frostbite. It can happen on any exposed skin, especially on the extremities such as fingers, toes, nose and ears. Signs include redness or pain in any skin area exposed to the cold. 

What should you do if you suspect you are getting frostbite? 

Immediately move to a heated location and begin warming the affected areas using warm water or body heat. Drinking plenty of fluids is also key when frostbite threatens as hydration increases the blood’s volume, which will help decrease your chances.

If you have any area of skin that is white or grayish-yellow in color, that feels firm or waxy, or even feels numb, please seek medical attention.

Now, when your body temperature sinks below 95°F, you have hypothermia. This is when you will need to seek medical attention immediately. 

Signs of hypothermia include confusion, shivering, difficulty speaking, and stiff muscles. 

If they are showing any of these signs, move the person inside to a heated location and begin warming the center of the body first. However, if the person is unconscious, administer CPR.

It’s important to remember these tips to help prevent you or someone you love from getting hypothermia:

1. As we always say during extremely cold spells, dress in layers. 

2. Avoid breezes and drafts while indoors.

3. Stay nourished and wear warm clothes to ward off the winter chill.

4. If you live alone, ask a family member or neighbor to check on you daily or have a camera installed that a family member can view on their computer.