MOUNT VERNON — Winter brings in more than ice, snow and sleet. With the cold temperatures there is always a harsh, brisk wind chill that ushers in the possibility of both frostbite and hypothermia. Predictions of wind chill between minus-20 and minus-40 degrees could put Knox County residents in life threatening positions today and Tuesday.
According to Jackie Fletcher, director of nursing at the Knox County Health Department, frostbite can have adverse effects on one’s skin.
“It can end up with permanent nerve and tissue damage. Frostbite usually affects the hands, the feet and the head,” said Fletcher.
“What happens is the body is trying to keep the core warm so the body is trying to keep the vital organs warm. Blood is drawn away from the peripheral areas of your body, such as your hands and your feet,” said Fletcher.
“With frostbite, what happens first is your hands or your feet become numb and then they will become red but then they will become a very pale white. At that point, frostbite has actually set in. And that’s when you can actually lose tissue,” said Fletcher.
Fletcher said that once the symptoms are experienced you should come inside immediately.
“You would think that what you want to do is to quickly warm your hands or feet up, like if you have an open fire or something or plunge them into warm water, but you don’t want to do that. That’s the worst thing to do. You want to warm them up very slowly; especially if you get wet you want to make sure that any exposed skin is nice and dry, but then warm the tissue up slowly,” said Fletcher.
In addition to frostbite, hypothermia is also a danger with the weather Knox County is experiencing.
“If you’re out in the cold for very long you can also experience hypothermia ... that’s where the body temperature falls below a certain point,” said Fletcher.
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