June 24th, 2024

Old Man Winter’s bitter bite no laughing matter: AHS

By Lethbridge Herald on December 20, 2022.

Herald photo by Ry Clarke Pedestrians make their way across a downtown street Tuesday afternoon as snow and frigid temperatures continue to blanket the city and surrounding areas.

Alejandra Pulido-Guzman – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – apulido@lethbridgeherald.com

With temperatures plummeting into the minus 30s, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Ellina Lytvyak with Alberta Health Services South shared some information Tuesday on how people can protect themselves. 

Lytvyak said when temperatures drop so precipitously, cold weather emergencies like frostbite and hypothermia become a concern, especially among those people that cannot always be indoors. 

“People can do some very simple precautions to avoid occurrence of those cold weather emergencies and protect themselves from them. We would ask people to dress in several layers of clothing, making sure the internal layers covering the body are soft and the outer layers are windproof and waterproof,” said Lytvyak. 

She said the most vulnerable areas of the human body to frostbite and hypothermia are earlobes, nose, cheeks, fingertips and toes, and therefore it is very important to pay special attention to how people protect their feet, their hands and their face. 

“It’s very important to stay well hydrated, because people who are experiencing dehydration are actually more prone to experience frostbite and hypothermia, as well as people with chronic conditions,” said Lytvyak. 

She said that being aware of the limitations of protection of certain articles of clothing is important to avoid putting yourself at risk. If a person has a pair of gloves that offer protection to -25 C for example, they should add an extra layer to their hands to avoid frostbite. 

“The number of layers is what can protect the skin, you can also wear more than one pair of socks, maybe even three to protect your toes from frostbite,” said Lytvyak. 

When it comes to recognizing frostbite or hypothermia yourself, Lytvyak said people should be aware of their sensations and the way their skin looks. 

“During frostnip, the first stage of frostbite, skin can actually look inflamed and red, and people can get some kind of tingling or numbness and skin can also feel cold,” said Lytvyak. 

She said that is the first stage and at that point people should head indoors and take further precautions like drinking hot liquids. After this stage superficial frostbite can occur and the next stage is deep frostbite.

“As the stages progress to superficial frostbite the skin starts looking white and kind of waxy. At this stage skin doesn’t have any pain, and people don’t feel any tingling or numbness or any type of pain so people might not even know they have superficial frostbite and that is why it is important to not be alone during such cold weather,” said Lytvyak. 

She said if people are accompanied, others can recognize the signs of superficial frostbite and respond accordingly. 

“As this continues and progresses to the final stage of deep frostbite, this is when the skin will become brownish, greyish, and it basically dies unfortunately and muscles can stop working, and from this stage sometimes it goes hand in hand with hypothermia lowering the temperature of the whole body,” said Lytvyak. 

When it comes to increasing someone’s chances of suffering from frostbite or hypothermia, Lytvyak said intake of alcohol or drugs make people more prone to them. 

“People who are using different substances definitely are more prone to developing hypothermia and developing frostnip that can progress to frostbite. It’s actually linked to different factors, first of all people who are using different psychotropic substances and alcohol can actually perceive environment and environmental exposures differently compared to the general population,” said Lytvyak.

She said there are also some changes that occur in the vessels in the skin and vessels in the body in general. 

“There might be substantial constriction in the vessels, and this is why skin can actually freeze much faster when people are using those psychotropic substances,” said Lytvyak. 

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We should all be thankful for “Man made Global warming” with out it….Gosh temps could be -50 or 60!