If not properly bundled up over the next few days, Iowans run the risk of frostbite, with wind chills forecast in the 20s and 30s below zero.
Mary O’Connor, a family nurse practitioner affiliated with Hansen Family Hospital in Iowa Falls, says prevention is key to avoiding this potentially dangerous affliction. “Often there’s a white, almost-bleached appearance to the skin, sometimes a bluish appearance,” O’Connor says. “If there’s any type of change, I would encourage folks to get covered up and seen right away. Those can be potentially very serious situations if we don’t get the circulation restored to those areas.”
In a worst case, a bad case of frostbite can mean surgery and removal of the damaged skin. O’Connor says hypothermia occurs when your body begins to lose heat faster than it’s produced, and when your body temperature drops below 95 degrees, a person must seek immediate medical treatment.
“We want to make sure the body temperature stays within that range so the body can function the best,” she says. “Early signs of hypothermia are shivering, when your body starts to show its first signs that its struggling to maintain that. As that continues, people can feel extreme exhaustion, drowsiness, and in extreme cases, confusion and memory loss.”
With the forecast wind chills, frostbite can occur on exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes.
(By Brian Fancher, KLMJ, Hampton)