Pine Belt residents cautioned on frostbite and hypothermia possibilities

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - With wind chill values in the single digits tonight, the threat for hypothermia and frostbite exists. Those who do not dressed appropriately and those spending time outdoors run the risk for cold-related illness.

"In our area, we don't see a lot of frostbite," said Dr. John Nelson, Medical Director of Forrest General Emergency Room. "But in temperatures like this, if you leave skin exposed for even a very short amount of time, you can certainly suffer that."

Hypothermia occurs when the core body temperature drops below 95 degrees. Symptoms include confusion or disorientation, numbness of hands and feet, shivering, and slurred speech. If extremities feel numb, become discolored, or feel waxy and hard, frostbite is a real concern.

While it's tempting to warm the individual as quickly as possible, it is important to restore warmth gradually. Remove wet clothing and warm the person's trunk first. Also, warm them up with warm beverages, making sure to avoid caffeine and alcohol.

"As far as recognition, it's more of a common sense thing," explained Dr. Nelson. "You need to bundle up and keep yourself insulated and warm. If you see tell-tale signs of somebody getting confused or not acting right, certainly they need to be checked."

Dressing appropriately for the frigid conditions is essential and can prevent hypothermia and frostbite. when in doubt, seek medical attention immediately.

Copyright 2013 WDAM. All rights reserved.