In frigid weather, watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia

NEW YORK -- A wind chill advisory is in effect in parts of the New York area, meaning that very cold air and brisk winds will combine to generate low wind chill readings.

The National Weather Service says frostbite and hypothermia may occur if precautions are not taken. If you must venture outdoors, make sure to dress in layers and cover exposed skin.

According to the Mayo Clinic, signs and symptoms of frostbite include:
At first, cold skin and a prickling feeling
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

Frostbite is most common on the fingers, toes, nose, ears, cheeks and chin. Because of skin numbness, you may not realize you have frostbite until someone else points it out.

Frostbite occurs in several stages:
Frostnip. The first stage of frostbite is frostnip. With this mild form of frostbite, your skin pales or turns red and feels very cold. Continued exposure leads to prickling and numbness in the affected area. As your skin warms, you may feel pain and tingling. Frostnip doesn't permanently damage the skin.
Superficial frostbite. The second stage of frostbite appears as reddened skin that turns white or pale. The skin may remain soft, but some ice crystals may form in the tissue. Your skin may begin to feel warm - a sign of serious skin involvement. If you treat frostbite with rewarming at this stage, the surface of your skin may appear mottled, blue or purple. And you may notice stinging, burning and swelling. A fluid-filled blister may appear 24 to 36 hours after rewarming the skin.
Severe (deep) frostbite. As frostbite progresses, it affects all layers of the skin, including the tissues that lie below. You may experience numbness, losing all sensation of cold, pain or discomfort in the affected area. Joints or muscles may no longer work. Large blisters form 24 to 48 hours after rewarming. Afterward, the area turns black and hard as the tissue dies.

When to see a doctor

Seek medical attention for frostbite if you experience:
Signs and symptoms of superficial or deep frostbite - such as white or pale skin, numbness, or blisters
Increased pain, swelling, redness or discharge in the area that was frostbitten
New, unexplained symptoms

Get emergency medical help if you suspect hypothermia, a condition in which your body loses heat faster than it can be produced. Signs and symptoms of hypothermia include:
Intense shivering
Slurred speech
Drowsiness and loss of coordination

Shivering is likely the first thing you'll notice as the temperature starts to drop because it's your body's automatic defense against cold temperature - an attempt to warm itself.

Signs and symptoms of mild hypothermia include:

Faster breathing
Trouble speaking
Slight confusion
Lack of coordination
Increased heart rate

Moderate to severe hypothermia

As your body temperature drops, signs and symptoms of moderate to severe hypothermia include:

Shivering, although as hypothermia worsens, shivering stops
Clumsiness or lack of coordination
Slurred speech or mumbling
Confusion and poor decision-making, such as trying to remove warm clothes
Drowsiness or very low energy
Lack of concern about one's condition
Progressive loss of consciousness
Weak pulse
Slow, shallow breathing
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