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Baby It's Cold Outside!

Hypothermia vs. Frostbite - What's The Difference?

Frostbite and hypothermia are both caused by cold exposure, and each can have long lasting effects, even death. In frostbite and hypothermia, the body tries to compensate for exposure to constant cold temperatures by maintaining constant temperatures to keep warn, which causes loss of heat production that is balanced by heat loss. Exposure to extreme elements, for example, bitter cold temperatures in the winter.

What is Hypothermia?

Hypothermia happens when the body temperature falls below a safe level, and it can be fatal. Infants and older people are especially at risk. The body maintains a relatively stable temperature of around 98.6˚F or 37˚C, under healthy conditions and is controlled by the part of the brain called the hypothalamus. If the environment gets to cold or the body is unable to produce sufficient heat, the core temperature can drop, and hypothermia can develop. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates between 2003 and 2013, more than 13,400 people have died from hypothermia in the United States.

What are the symptoms?

  • Shivering

  • Slurred speech or mumbling

  • Slow, shallow breathing

  • Weak pulse

  • Clumsiness or lack of coordination

  • Drowsiness or very low energy

  • Confusion or memory loss

  • Loss of consciousness

What are the stages of Hypothermia?

There are three (3) stages of hypothermia, according to the AAFP

  1. Mid-stage - Body temperature is 90°F to 95°F (32.2°C to 35°C) in which they have high blood pressure, shivering, rapid breathing and heart rate, constricted blood vessels, lack of coordination, and fatigue.

  2. Moderate-stage - Body temperature is 82.4°F to 90°F (28°C to 32.2°C) in which there is an irregular heartbeat, slower breathing, low level of consciousness, pupils dilated, low blood pressure and decreased reflexes.

  3. Severe-stage - Body temperature is less than 82.4°F (28°C) in which it's extremely hard to breath, pupils don't react, heart failure begins, and cardiac arrest can happen.

What is Frostbite?

Frostbite refers to the freezing of body tissue (usually skin) that results when the blood vessels contract, reducing blood flow and oxygen to the affected body parts. It is most likely to affect body parts that are farther away from the body core and, therefore, have less blood flow. These include your feet, toes, hands, fingers, nose, and ears.

What are the symptoms?

  • At first, cold skin and a prickling feeling

  • Numbness

  • Red, white, bluish-white or grayish-yellow skin

  • Hard or waxy-looking skin

  • Clumsiness due to joint and muscle stiffness

  • Blistering after rewarming, in severe cases

What are the stages of Frostbite?

There are three (3) degrees of this cold injury

  1. First-degree is called Frostnip. It is very mild and doesn't damage your skin. With frostnip your skin will turn red and feel cold to the touch. If you continue to stay in the cold you will begin to feel numb or have a tickling sensation. When you get back in the warmth, you may feel pain or tingling.

  2. Second-degree is called Superficial Frostbite. Your skin will turn from a reddish color to a paler color and sometimes blue in appearance. You may begin to see ice crystals form in your skin and affected areas may have a hard or frozen feeling when touched. As your skin begins to warm up you may notice swelling which means damage to your skin tissue is beginning to occur. Prompt medical treatment is required to prevent further damage.

  3. Third-degree is called Deep Frostbite. This is the most severe stage of frostbite as it affects both your skin and underlying tissue. You will notice your skin has a blue or blotchy look and a feeling of numbness to sensations such as cold or pain. Blood-filled blisters may develop and muscles close to the affected area may not work properly. Upon rewarming the area will appear black and feel hard due to tissue death in the affected area. Seek immediate attention with deep frostbite.

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