While you may be imagining warming up by the fire after spending time outdoors this winter, remember it’s important to protect your body from very cold temperatures and be proactive in preventing hypothermia and frostbite.

What is Hypothermia?

Hypothermia is a condition caused by the body’s inability to produce heat faster than it leaves the body. According to the Mayo Clinic, “The average body temperature is 98.6 degrees” however, hypothermia can set in when the body’s temperature drops below 95 degrees. Hypothermia comes on gradually, so it can go unnoticed, and can have fatal results if not attended to promptly, so be sure to watch for any of these symptoms.

  • Shivering
  • Confusion
  • Shaky hands
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness or tiredness
  • Shallow breathing
  • Lack of coordination
  • Loss of consciousness

If you or someone around you is experiencing any of the symptoms of hypothermia, seek medical attention immediately. However, you can take some precautionary measures to keep a person comfortable while waiting to get medical attention. Help them find shelter from the cold, and cover them with any blankets you have on hand. If the person is lying on the ground, make sure there is something underneath to help insulate them from the ground. Finally, if able, provide them with warm beverages to drink to help bring up the body’s temperature.


Frostbite is another condition caused by exposure to cold temperatures.

There are several levels of frostbite that range from discolored skin to dying tissue, which in severe cases, may result in loss of extremities.

Symptoms of frostbite include:

  • Tingling, burning or prickling feeling
  • Numbness in extremities
  • Skin that appears discolored. Skin could be red, white, bluish purple, brown, or ash colored skin and is a cause for concern.
  • Skin that looks waxy
  • Blistering in severe cases

Early stages of frostbite can resolve without complications, and skin will return to normal. after coming indoors from colder temperatures. You may feel a burning sensation as frozen skin returns to normal. Do not place cold extremities in hot water, but you may use warm (slightly above body temperature) water to thaw the skin. However, blackened skin, common in more severe cases of frostbite, should be evaluated by a medical professional immediately.

When the weather outside is frightful, prepare ahead of time by following these tips:

With the right preparation, you can safely enjoy time outside this winter. And hey – enjoy a nice cup of hot cocoa on your return!

  • Wear appropriate clothing. A warm jacket, socks, gloves, hats, and scarves will help to protect yourself.
  • Remove wet clothing, it will cause your body temperature to lower more quickly. If you plan to be outside for a long period of time, be sure to pack a change of dry clothing so you can change.

We are here when you need us! Patient First is able to evaluate and treat a wide range of illnesses and injuries. You can visit any Patient First center from 8am to 8pm, every day of the year – no appointment is needed.

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