If you were stuck in the Antarctic ice on the Russian research ship Akademik Shokalskiy waiting for an icebreaker to rescue you, chances are you'd be vigilant about protecting your skin from frostbite.
But if you're on a skiing holiday in Quebec or are a kid waiting for a school bus in Minneapolis, you also need to take extra care when temperatures plummet. Young children, those not used to the cold, and anyone in temperatures well below freezing are at risk of frostbite on the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes - anywhere that is exposed to the frigid air.
When the skin gets cold, your body's circulation/heat delivery system reduces flow to areas where blood can become cold, making those areas even colder! (That's so your body can keep vital organs, like the heart and brain, toasty.) As your extremities become colder, you first feel pain, then burning and tingling, and finally numbness. Ice crystals may form in skin tissue, sometimes causing cell death that leads to amputation.
Luckily, before you get to that point, you may save damaged tissue by slowly rewarming it, using wraps or warm - never hot - water. But the best solution is to not risk frostbite in the first place.
Cover exposed skin with a wind-resistant warm material. Wear multiple layers for insulation. Consider mittens (often warmer than gloves) and mitten liners, if it's below 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Wear waterproof boots with warm socks. And move around to keep circulation going. Then you can ride to school or navigate that black diamond ski run with a smile on your face!
© King Features Syndicate