The danger of frostbite is very real in Manitoba with lower temperatures and wind the past few days.  That from Steinbach Doctor Myron Thiessen.  He says there have been some cases of minor frostbite but fortunately people are being wise and there hasn't been serious damage happening.  The best way to prevent frostbite is to avoid going out in the cold in the first place.  But if you do need to go out, dress warmly.  That would include covering as much exposed skin as possible and dress with clothing that is not too tight fitting.   Dr Thiessen notes one thing people often do is get dressed for the cold to much before going outside and then we perspire and get wet.  That is not a good thing to do, rather he suggests staying as dry as possible.  Also replace any clothing that becomes wet with warm dry clothing.  A person should wear mittens rather than gloves because the fingers being together inside the mitten preserves some warmth.

Touching cold metal with bare skin is also not a good idea because the skin may actually freeze to the object.  Dr Thissen also cautions against breathing too deeply because the cold air going into the lungs exchanges a lot of heat from our body.  If you have been outside and you feel cold or chilled, it actually takes a while to warm up adequately.  He says it's sometimes good to warm up for several hours, even if you feel warm, because going out the second time may cause chilling to happen earlier.

A final word of advice is to avoid smoking and alcohol.  Smoking increases the chance for frostbite and alcohol impairs our perception of cold.

Meanwhile Dr Thiessen explains our body displays cold in a different way than it would during a time of fever.  In extreme circumstances, when cold, the body will start to drop in core body temperature.  This indicates a rather severe chilling and is a time to seek quick medical attention.  The normal chilling we feel is usually just the extremities feeling cool.  At that time the body is conserving energy by reducing blood flow so the actual body temperature should not be going down at that time.

If you have been out in the cold too long he has this advice.  If the skin looks as though it might have been chilled to much it's important to warm it relatively quickly.  A warmish bath works good for fingers and toes and a warm cloth on the face is also good.  A mild stage of frostbite is just a superficial injury to the skin and that might appear a little red, it may blanche a bit but the skin should return to it's normal colour after being warm for a while.  In that case there is not much to worry about. 




If the skin starts to swell, remains white after warming, if there are blisters or it looks waxy you should seek medical attention. 

His advice is to warm cold areas quickly and he says the idea of cold water on cold fingers may feel better but is not be the best treatment.  Dr Thiessen admits it is more comfortable to heat the extremity more slowly because the tingling sensation we get as the temperature rises is not as bad with colder water.  However if you are concerned that the skin is too cool, warm water and regaining the temperature as quickly as possible is actually better for the extremity.

He says common sense is a good thing and he says it's better to err on the side of staying in a bit longer rather than getting frostbite.

Reporter Chris Teetaert had this convesation with Doctor Thiessen.