Righttime Medical Care, a leading urgent care provider, has been seeing an increase in injuries related to the record-breaking East coast cold weather and offers advice on keeping safe.
Dr. Nathan Newman, M.D., F.A.A.F.P., VP of Medical Services for Righttime Medical Care, outlines some of the common health concerns linked to cold temperatures:
- Frostnip, is a mild form of frostbite which irritates the skin, causing it to become mildly pale or red and feel cold, followed by numbness and a tingling feeling. The skin is not permanently damaged from frostnip. The affected part may be slowly warmed by breathing onto the injured site, such as breathing into cupped hands. A hand with frostnip can also be warmed under the armpit. Numbness gives way to a warm flush feeling that can be painful as rewarming progresses.
- Frostbite is much more serious and may occur when skin is exposed to a temperature lower than 14°F (-10°C). Skin first becomes very cold and red, then numb, hard, pale and swollen when underlying tissues are affected. Frostbite requires immediate medical attention because of possible extensive injury, which can be complicated by infection and nerve damage.
- Head trauma can occur as a result of slips and falls on ice. At this time of year, Righttime's service HeadFirst Concussion Care, the region's leading concussion management center, has seen increased head trauma patients related to these situations. HeadFirst health providers also frequently see compound injuries, which are brain injuries coupled with additional trauma such as fractures, lacerations, etc., as a result of falls. Additionally, head trauma can result from being involved in motor vehicle accidents occurring on icy and snowy roads.
"Winter weather comes with its own unique challenges to stay safe," says Dr. Newman. "Freezing temperatures can sometimes catch us off-guard so the best defense in the weather we're currently experiencing is a healthy dose of prevention."
Righttime offers these tips on preventing winter healthy safety concerns:
- Dress in layers when outdoors and be sure to wear a hat.
- When returning indoors, remove wet clothing as quickly as possible.
- When exercising outdoors, if any numb or stinging feelings appear in the cheeks, lips, nose, ears, hands and feet, come inside immediately.
- If skin is chilled, immerse the body in warm water—not hot—for up to 30 minutes until all the feeling returns. Rewarming can also be done via body heat, such as placing hands in armpits.
- Walk carefully on potentially icy sidewalks by wearing proper shoes, not carrying heavy loads.
- Seek immediate medical care in case of suspected frostbite, hypothermia, sprains, strains, fractures or concussion.