In a cold snap like this one, it doesn’t take long for temperatures to become a health risk. Amy Lavin is a nurse practitioner at the Howard Young Medical Center in Woodruff. She says in weather this cold, exposed skin can become frostbitten in about 5 minutes. If you’re exercising or have certain medical conditions, you might not even notice it happening.
“If you’re out and about and you actually feel warmer, you may not notice that the cold air is actually hurting your skin. And if people are drinking alcohol, that can also minimize the sensation that a person feels.”
Symptoms of mild frostbite include numbness, whiteness or blistering. It can be reversed by putting the affected body part in warm water. Severe frostbite is characterized by the skin turning black.
Lavin says hypothermia is another worry. It happens when the body temperature drops below 95 degrees. Symptoms include shivering and mental confusion.
“We can prevent frostbite and hypothermia by dressing properly, wearing layers, making sure all of our skin is covered when we are outside.”
There are several warming shelters in the area…including in Rhinelander, Minocqua and Eagle River that are open to the public, for those who need to get warm.