Extreme weather causes four cases

Jake Kapsner

Bundle up, it’s cold outside.
That’s the message from Boynton Health Service, where four University students were treated for frostbite Tuesday.
Frostbite is a freezing of the skin, on the surface or underlying tissues, that can quickly occur from exposure to extreme cold and wind.
“It’s like freezer burn,” said Rose Kent, a nurse and a supervisor in urgent care who treated three of the patients.
Tuesday’s most extreme case of frostbite involved surface level blistering akin to a second degree burn, Kent said. In such instances, the skin will peel away in a matter of days, but blisters can be harmful because infections can occur once they burst, and the affected area is more susceptible to reoccurring frostbite.
And the longer a person is exposed to harsh weather, the greater the risk of severe frostbite becomes. Some people lose body parts such as limbs, ears and noses to frostbite, Kent said.
Early signs of frostbite include tingling and numbness, followed by a paleness or whitening of the skin. In severe cases, the skin will appear white, blue or blotchy.
At the first sign, people are advised to go indoors and rewarm the affected area with lukewarm water or by placing the skin against warm flesh — though not by rubbing, which can break the skin, Kent said. If the frostbite is severe, a person should go to a clinic or hospital immediately.
“The thing to remember about frostbite is it’s totally preventable,” said Dave Golden, Boynton’s director of public health marketing and program development.
Frostbite can best be avoided by staying inside, Kent said. But since most students don’t have that option, she said to be cautious and check the weather report before going out.
For those who do brave the elements, wearing warm hats, scarves, gloves and boots is a start, she said. People should be prepared for any kind of weather by dressing in layers and covering all exposed areas.
“I’ve been seeing a lot of people walking around out there without proper cover,” she said. “I’m sure we’ll see more (cases of frostbite) as the week goes on.”
Many people take the weather for granted, Golden said. Often, people come to the University from different climates and are not used to covering up entirely, or else underestimate how far they have to walk outside. Last year, Boynton treated a number of people who had been using alcohol and got careless in the cold.
For more information, call the Boynton medical information line at 625-7900.