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Extreme cold can lead to respiratory problems, hypothermia, frostbite



SPRINGFIELD, Mo. Cold temperatures are one thing, but add some heavier winds and most of us can feel the cold right down to our bones.

Why is that?

Well, our body naturally radiates heat. But when the wind comes, it carries that thin layer of warm air away from our skin's surface, making it colder.

So, the cold wind is an important factor in how cold you will feel.

Cold air is also dry air and can irritate the respiratory tract, especially in people who suffer from asthma, COPD or bronchitis.

Dr. Bala Allam, a Mercy Hospitalist, recommends covering his nose and mouth with a scarf or mask in extreme cold.

It also reminds you to breathe through your nose, not through your mouth.

"When we inhale cold air, the nasal passages actually heat up the air," he explained.

Another interesting fact is that your skin is the largest organ of your body and when you are cold, your blood vessels narrow. They narrow to distract the blood from your extremities. This helps to maintain body temperature, but the lack of blood on the toes, fingers, ears and nose can lead to frostbite.

There are three stages of frostbite that begin with "frostnip" and redden the skin. This level can be treated with warm but not hot water.

Stage 2 "superficial frostbite" makes the skin look paler or blue with swelling.

And level 3 "deep frostbite" makes the skin blue or blotchy with blisters.

Stages 2 and 3 are signs of increased damage to the skin tissue and should be treated by a doctor.

"The reason is that many people also have a circulatory problem," said Allam. "And if they do not seek medical help and have frostbite, that's pretty dangerous."

Another problem is hypothermia. Then your body loses more heat than it produces and your body temperature drops. Her normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees. However, if it falls below 95 degrees, you may experience problems with some vital functions.

"Hypothermia usually causes lung and heart problems, but it can lead to bleeding disorders in the body," said Allam.

Hypothermia includes confusion, tremor, difficulty speaking, drowsiness, and stiff muscles.

One problem, however, is that someone with hypothermia is not always aware that he is experiencing the symptoms.

Your risk of hypothermia increases when you're depleted (tolerance decreases), older age (ability to regulate body temperature with age), very young (children lose heat faster than adults), mental illness (the not to recognize the symptoms) and the use of alcohol or drugs

In summary, it's important to pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you when you're in the elements.

For example, the aforementioned part of your face that works so hard to heat the wind when it enters your body will let you know when it's working to do the job.

"Once you are cold and have a runny nose, you have to stop," Allam said. "That means your nose is exhausted because it's cold, and it's time to go inside."

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