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Serious risk for frostbite in frigid temperatures

If you have to go outside in subzero temperatures, you encounter the risk of developing frostbite.
Published: Jan. 7, 2022 at 5:43 PM CST
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – Winters in Minnesota are brutal, from the cost of heating your home to difficult driving conditions. If you have to go outside, you encounter the risk of developing frostbite.

“In weather like we’ve been having where wind chills are negative twenty or even colder. It can take a matter of ten minutes for frostbite to set in,” Mayo Clinic Ambulance Practice Medical Director Aaron Classen said.

Frostbite happens when skin is exposed to cold temperatures. Initially it’s painful, but after awhile, the extremity can become numb.

“After enough damage has set in, sometimes the injured part can become insensate where it can’t feel pain anymore,” Classen said.

There are three key steps to preventing frostbite.

“Keeping yourself protected by keeping those body parts covered. Staying indoors when you’re able to, and making sure you’re prepared when you travel in particular are the most important things,” Classen said.

Sam Pfingsten says he skipped these steps last year on a ski trip.

“When I got out there, I realized that I didn’t have my gloves and I want to say it was like negative ten wind-chill, probably way worse than that,” Pfingsten said. “20, 30 minutes into the day when we were out there, my hands started to tingle and get like pins and needles feeling… 30 more minutes like went by, and I looked at my fingers and they were all purple.”

Thankfully, Pfingsten’s frostbite wasn’t too severe and he was able to treat it at home.

“Warm the extremity slowly without using something too hot. You can actually burn yourself by exposing yourself to a fire for example, because you may not be able to feel it’s so hot,” Pfingsten said.

Sam recommends to other skiers to make sure they have all their supplies they need before they hit the slopes. Same goes for anyone else venturing outside this winter.

“A rookie mistake definitely. Probably learn from that one and not have cold hands ever again,” Pfingsten said.

Classen said that the most common body parts to develop frostbite if exposed are the fingers, toes and face, specifically the nose and ears, so if you have to venture outside, make sure to bundle up.

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