NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — In North Dakota, the winter lasts for almost six months, so adapting to the cold weather is a necessity while living here.
Temperatures are already dipping below zero and wind chills are making it feel even more frigid out there. This mixture of elements in our weather can be dangerous to our skin.
We met with KX News’ very own Meteorologist, Amber Wheeler, to talk more about frostbite and how it occurs.
“So, frostbite is going to happen when you have really cold temperatures and cold air running over your skin. And it’s basically evaporating the moisture inside your skin. Or it’s basically freezing the moisture in your skin and creating ice crystals and that’s why you don’t want to rub any areas that seem like you’re getting frostbite,” explained Wheeler.
We need moisture in order to have working mobility. The best thing to do is cover your extremities like your nose, ears, and fingers.
Even if you are going a short distance, it’s still important to bundle up and keep extra layers of warmth available in your car in case of emergencies. An extra pair of socks, a blanket, or an extra pair of pants may help you in the future if you ever find yourself stuck on the side of the road.
The beginning of the frostbite process will make you feel numb. According to the Mayo Clinic, frostbite often starts out as frostnip which is the earliest stage of frostbite. So, if you’re out shoveling this winter and your fingers start to go numb, go inside and warm up right away.
However, in our state, it doesn’t take long to get either frostbite or frostnip.
“I mean we get temperatures here in North Dakota where you can get frostbite walking from your car to your work. I mean, I think about doctors and nurses at Sanford. You know, they may not be able to park right next to their building. I’m always seeing them having to walk through downtown to get to their jobs. Well, if they’re not fully covered, we’ve had times where you can get frostbite within five to ten minutes here in North Dakota, especially in the morning hours,” said Wheeler.
Kylie Buchholz, is a nurse practitioner with the Skin Institute of Facial Surgery, she explains what signs to look for if you do start to experience frostnip or frostbite and what to do.
“You can rewarm frost nip at home with warm water, not hot water. But, when it turns to frostbite, that’s when you see more of the waxy, red, maybe even dark-like black discoloration of the tissue, those are going to be signs of frostbite. That would require medical attention for the rewarming process,” said Buchholz.
If you do get frostbite, the long-term effects can last a lifetime.
“Well, the biggest thing we worry about is tissue death, or narcosis that can occur with very serious frostbite. But sometimes what we call paresthesia, or numbness, or a decrease in sensation in the fingertips that would be another adverse effect,” explained Buchholz.
Sure, we think about frostbite when it’s cold out, but what we don’t oftentimes think about is the sun on our skin. Just because it isn’t summertime, doesn’t mean that the sun’s rays don’t have an effect on our bodies during this time of year.
“I can’t stress enough the importance of sunscreen. About 80% of the sun’s rays still penetrate through the clouds and it reflects off the snow, so you almost need double protection in the winter because of that added reflection or added exposure,” said Buchholz.
Another common complaint that Buchholz says people have in the winter is dry skin.
She says the best way to prevent that is to use a humidifier and stick with products that have hyaluronic acid because it’s a moisture magnet.
While enjoying the great outdoors this winter, always be sure to bundle up in layers. Make sure to cover up your fingers, ears, and your face.