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Sentara physician offers frostbite tips as temperatures drop

This week’s temperatures in the Shenandoah Valley have remained low and could drop into single...
This week’s temperatures in the Shenandoah Valley have remained low and could drop into single digits early Saturday morning, increasing the risk of frostbite.(WHSV)
Published: Jan. 7, 2022 at 12:59 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Following two winter storms, this week’s temperatures in the Shenandoah Valley have remained low and could drop into single digits early Saturday morning, increasing the risk of frostbite for anyone who will be outside.

In temperatures below freezing, frostbite usually takes about 30 minutes to set in. For cases of extreme cold or when someone is unable to keep their hands and feet dry, it can set in as soon as 10-15 minutes.

“Frostbite is a very wide spectrum, and it starts with ‘I can’t feel my fingers and toes’ that is a very mild form of frostbite, your profusion has decreased, that’s probably the first sign that you need to pay attention to what’s going on,” said Dr. Jennifer Derby, a family physician with Sentara RMH.

Derby says once frostbite becomes more severe, the skin will become waxy, which indicates tissue damage.

Doctor Derby says that people often get frostbite because they are unprepared. She recommends the use of handwarmers and says it’s important to wear loose, layered clothing out in the snow because tight clothing can increase the chances of getting a cold injury.

It’s also important to gradually warm yourself if your extremities are numb and you think you may have frostbite.

“Get into a warm area, don’t try and rewarm the injury first because that can cause further tissue damage, don’t try and rub it because that can cause further tissue damage, don’t take your shoes off,” said Dr. Derby.

Derby says people often make the mistake of immediately putting their hands by something very hot which can do more harm than good.

“Don’t go sticking your feet right by the fire, that pre-disposes you for actual burn injuries because not only did you get frostbite, but you couldn’t feel that fire because you had frostbite, so you hit the fire and now you’ve got a heat injury on top of a cold injury,” she said.

Derby recommends using warm water and body heat to warm yourself if you think you may have frostbite and that if you start getting blisters from frostbite you should go to a clinic.

Frostbite isn’t the only issue that can be caused by the cold. Derby says those with asthma should be on alert when temperatures drop, because the extreme cold can trigger asthma attacks.

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