MAYWOOD, IL – With the current extreme cold weather conditions in the Chicago area, Loyola Medicine offers these three tips to keep you safe and warm.
1. Proper Layering is Key
Arthur Sanford, MD, of Loyola Medicine's division of trauma, surgical critical care and burns, says if you must brave the cold, proper layering goes a long way. To stay warm in single-digit temperatures, dress using these guidelines:
- Upper body – thermal base layer, mid-layer of a sweater, fleece or jacket and a top layer of a waterproof shell
- Lower body – wear long underwear underneath pants and top with snow pants
- Head – wear a hat that fully covers your head and ears
- Hands – wear waterproof gloves and avoid texting gloves with missing fingers
- Feet – wear 1-2 pairs of thick socks and warm shoes or boots, preferably waterproof
“Layering is ideal because if an item of clothing gets wet, you can remove it and protect yourself from frostbite," Dr. Sanford said. "It's better to put on too many layers and get warm than the other way around."
2. Stay Dry – Frostbite Strikes Fast When Body Parts Are Wet
Frostbite can strike in 30 minutes or less, especially if your feet and hands are wet, Dr. Sanford said. Fingers, toes, the tip of the nose and earlobes are the most susceptible to frostbite.
"Blood vessels start to constrict to preserve body temperature," Sanford said. "The lack of blood in these areas of the body can lead to freezing and the death of skin tissue."
If your skin takes on a white or yellowish color, blisters, feels waxy or is numb to touch (most common), get indoors immediately and place the affected area in warm water – not hot water. Finally, do not rub skin as it is fragile and could cause more damage. If feeling doesn't return or the affected area turns red or blue, swells or feels hot, go to the Emergency Department or call 911 right away.
3. Limit Time Outdoors to Prevent Hypothermia
When temperatures are this bitterly cold, staying indoors may be your best option. Hypothermia occurs when your body temperature falls below 95 degrees.
Symptoms may include shivering, blueish-cold hands and feet, drowsiness, slurred speech and confusion. If a child or adult exhibits any of these symptoms, get them inside immediately, get them out of wet clothes into dry ones, wrap them in a blanket and call 911.
Exercising in the winter can be healthy and great for overall health and wellness. In fact, if warm enough, exercising in the cold can give you a rush. But in extreme weather, exercising outdoors can be dangerous and trigger asthma, heart conditions and more. Seek the advice of a medical professional before exercising outside when the temperature drops below zero.
Loyola Medicine's Burn Center is the largest burn center in Illinois and a national leader in treating adult and pediatric burns and trauma, including frostbite.