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The signs and treatments for frostbite and hypothermia

(WSYR-TV) — As the polar vortex brings such cold temperatures and added wind chills, it’s important to stay bundled up and avoid getting frostbite or hypothermia if you’re outside this week.

Ready.gov, an emergency readiness service from the federal government, has provided a list of tips to prepare for winter weather, including when temperatures drop to such extremes. One of the most important and easiest tips is to limit time outside, the service said.

Ready also explained the difference between frostbite and hypothermia.

Frostbite causes loss of feeling and color in the face, fingers, and toes, the website said. Clear signs of frostbite include numbness, white or grayish-yellow skin, and firm or waxy skin.

To help recover from frostbite, Ready said to go into a warm room, soak in warm water, and use body heat to warm yourself up. However, do not massage or use a heating pad on your skin.

Hypothermia is when the entire body temperature becomes unusually low; anything below 95 degrees is an emergency, Ready said.

Signs of hypothermia include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech or drowsiness.

To come back from potential hypothermia, you should again go into a warm room and focus on heating the center of your body first (head, neck, chest, and groin). Stay dry and stay wrapped up in warm blankets, the agency said.

To prevent both hypothermia and frostbite during this time, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recommends staying indoors.

For those who have to travel during the extreme cold, NOAA recommends keeping a winter survival kit in your vehicle if you must travel. This includes checking your tire pressure, antifreeze levels, heater/defroster and more.

If you have to go outside, NOAA recommends wearing the following:

  • Layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing, and a hat
  • Mittens, snug at the wrist, are better than gloves
  • Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extreme cold
  • Stay dry and out of the wind

NOAA also recommends leaving pets inside, and only taking them out bundled up to do their business.

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