Frostbite Can Happen Faster than You Think - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Frostbite Can Happen Faster than You Think


The temperature has a lot to do with winter weather danger levels, but so does the wind. Depending on wind chills, it can feel much colder, and you can be at risk for frostbite a lot sooner than you might expect. In some cases, it can take just minutes to develop frostbite.

Doctors say there is no margin for error. "Things can happen very very quickly and you can get into trouble," explains Dr. Steven Bashor, Genesis Davenport Emergency Room Medical Director.  And, it's not always for the reason the you think. "The normal time that you have, say if it's cold and you're running out to your car for just 30 seconds, exposed parts of your body can freeze, tips of your ears, tips of your nose, tips of your fingers."

According to the National Weather Service, with a temperature of five below and the wind blowing at ten miles an hour, the wind chill is 22 below, and in 30 minutes, you could get frostbite. At ten below with 25 mile per hour winds, it takes just 10 minutes. We could see those conditions next week. And, at 20 below with a 35 mile per hour wind, just five minutes of exposure could leave you with frostbite.

"Frostbite is the situation where crystals form in the tissue and the circulation stops. You tend to have tingling, lose feeling, the area becomes white and doesn't blanche," Dr. Bashor says. He adds, anyone experiencing that should get out of the cold, and everyone needs to look out for symptoms.

That is something crews who spend time outdoors do regularly. "They dress in layers when it's cold," Rock Island Public Works Director Randy Tweet says. "And when they get cold, they take a break in the truck to warm up, so they're familiar with the situation. Most of our workers have been doing this for more than 20 years."

Still, every year, crews in Rock Island and Davenport go through cold weather training so they can stay safe out in it. Public Works directors say their people will be out for water main breaks or snow removal, but other, smaller jobs may have to wait for the weather to warm up.

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