According to meteorologist Brian Lada, a fresh blast of arctic air will deliver some of the coldest weather in 20 years to the Midwest into the start of this week.
Some parts of Michigan dipped to -30 below with the wind chill factor, with wind chills below zero forecast for half of the Lower 48 by this morning.
The gusty winds accompanying the subzero temperatures make it feel significantly colder and can pose danger for those spending prolonged periods of time in the outdoors.
These icy winds and extreme cold carry heat away from your body, heightening the risk of frostbite and hypothermia, as well as dehydration.
In conditions like this, frostbite can develop in as little as fifteen minutes.
The body parts most at risk are noses, fingers, toes and ears since some of those body parts may be exposed and have less blood flowing through them and a lot less mass than the body’s core.
Drinking alcohol to “warm up” can in fact cool you rather than warm you up by dilating the blood vessels near the surface of your skin. And rubbing frozen skin should be replaced by gently warming it.
NPR contacted Dr. Seth Podolsky, a vice chair of emergency services at the Cleveland Clinic, who advised that prevention was the key. “The more time and the more skin exposed, the worse it is.”
Podolsky also suggests keeping an emergency kit in the car including warm clothing, blankets or sleeping bags. These items can reduce the risk of hypothermia. A body temperature below 95 degrees can lead to death if not quickly treated.
Bad frostbite can destroy blood vessels, leading to gangrene and loss of extremities. But frostbite has an early warning sign called frostnip. When the skin reddens and stings, or feels numb, it’s time to find shelter.
“If you do end up getting frostbite, you need to seek care of a physician,” Podolsky says. “In the meantime, get to a warm place and take off wet clothing. Try to remove rings or other jewelry, because frostbite causes serious swelling.”
An emergency room treatment involves removing your clothes, and a warm water bath, and if it’s frostbite, the thawing process is painful, because as blood flow returns tissues swell.
Frostbitten skin usually blisters, so warm bulky dressings are used to protect the skin and prevent infection. A tetanus shot is a good idea, Podolsky says.
Moreover, some studies suggest using aspirin, warfarin or other blood thinners to help reduce the risk of long-term damage.