Topeka (WIBW) - This bitterly cold weather isn't just a nuisance. it also can be deadly.
Ashley Malick, ARNP in Stormont-Vail's emergency department says the ice and snow don't just mean slips, falls and car wrecks. The bitter cold that's come with it can also mean frostbite, sometimes within minutes.
Malick says, with frostbite, the cold is slowing circulation to the extremities to the point the tissue is actually freezing and dying. She says if the skin is discolored, numb or really stiff, those are signs of frostbite.
Frostbite can be prevented by covering all exposed skin. Fingers and toes are obvious, but it's common on the nose, cheeks and ears, too. When you feel frostbite starting, come inside and cover the area with gloves or a blanket, rather than rubbing it or running it under hot water. Malick says going from one extreme to the other can hurt the tissue more than allowing it to warm gradually.
Prolonged time in the cold also can cause hypothermia, where the body's temperature become too low and can't recover.
Malick says signs hypothermia is setting in include feeling disoriented or groggy or sluggish.
If getting to a warm area and huddling under blankets and drinking warm fluids doesn't help, get to a doctor.
Malick says people with heart conditions should be cautious in the cold. The heart has to work even harder to keep you warm and the blood circulating.
Speaking of circulation, people with poorly controlled diabetes may also have problems. Malick says they may not realize their feet or hands are cold or wet if they don't have good sensation any longer.
Malick also says people with asthma may want to wear a mask to keep the cold air from irritating their lungs.
As for children who like to play in the cold, make sure to dress the kids in layers and make them come inside to warm up every 15 to 20 minutes - that's a good rule for adults, too!