(WKBN) – On Friday in our newsroom, we heard over our scanner someone who was concerned they had frostbite. It got us wondering… how common is frostbite? How do you know if you have it? Also, what do you do if you get it? We talked to a doctor with Mercy Health to get some answers.
According to Dr. Denise Bobovnyk, frostbite is basically the freezing of body tissues and there are four stages of it.
“Oh, my fingers, they’re cold, they’re numb. I need to get inside because that is the very first stage of frostbite. The second stage would be the whole, you know, fingertips down to your first knuckle, would be kind of bluish,” Dr. Bobovnyk said.
The third stage is all of your knuckles are blue and the fourth is when your whole hand is blue.
“It just happens in freezing weather, 30 to 32 degrees weather,” Dr. Bobovnyk said.
But even if it’s above freezing temperatures and your hand is wet, or it’s windy, frostbite can happen.
“If I’m touching something metal that’s going to draw the heat out more, that could make it even faster because it cools the heat out of your body, water and metal,” Dr. Bobovnyk said.
Hands, feet, nose and ears commonly get frostbite. If they’re feeling numb, you should head inside.
“You know, hands under your armpits, you don’t want to rub them. You don’t want to do that. If you can get a 98 to 102 degrees water, if you can keep it at that level, that will warm them up slowly,” Dr. Bobovnyk said.
Along with wearing multiple layers, Dr. Bobovnyk recommends mittens over gloves. She also says putting Vaseline on your face as people did in the 1950s and ’60s doesn’t actually work.
“If you’re going to go out and scrape off your car, put on your mittens, put on your hat, put on a coat. Protect yourself, even if it’s going to be 5 minutes. It sometimes, that’s all it takes just depending on the different conditions,” Dr. Bobovnyk said.
Dr. Bobovnyk says maybe 1 in 200,000 people get frostbite, but sometimes people have a mild case and fix it just by warming up. So it’s possible some cases, so to speak, don’t get reported.