February 2017 – Rehab and Wellness Connection

We are certainly in the middle of deep-freeze temperatures in our area. However, that does not stop us from either needing to be outdoors for work or wanting to be outdoors to enjoy winter activities. When the temperature dips below 0° F or the wind chill is extreme, consider taking a break or choosing an indoor exercise instead. Consider putting off your workout if it's raining or snowing unless you have waterproof gear. Getting wet makes you more vulnerable to the cold. And if you get soaked, you may not be able to keep your core body temperature high enough. If you are not in a position to stay out of the elements due to work, there are precautions you can take by dressing in layers as well as awareness to the early signs and differences between HYPOTHERMIA and FROSTBITE.

  • HYPOTHERMIA is abnormally low body temperature. When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Because hypothermia happens gradually and affects one's thinking, it may not be immediately recognized. That is why hypothermia can be so dangerous. Anyone can get hypothermia. One can also get it from being cold and wet or in cold water for too long. Babies and elderly people are especially at risk. Babies can get it just from sleeping exposed in a cold room. Signals of hypothermia include: Intense shivering, slurred speech, loss of coordination, fatigue, numbness, glassy stare, impaired judgment.

In case of hypothermia you should get to a warm place as soon as possible. Remove any wet clothing and get as dry as possible. Warm up slowly by wrapping in blankets or by putting dry clothing on. Do NOT warm up too quickly, such as immersing in warm water or close exposure to a fire. Rapid warming may cause dangerous heart arrhythmias. Warm the core first (trunk/abdomen) NOT the hands/feet. If breathing or circulation is impaired, seek immediate medical attention.

  • FROSTBITE is the freezing of skin and extremities. The nose, cheeks, ears, fingers and toes are most commonly affected. Everyone is susceptible, even people who have been living in cold climates for most of their lives. Signals of frostbite include: Burning, numbness, tingling/itching, and the region will appear white or frozen or will be discolored and cold to the touch.

In deep frostbite there is an initial decrease in sensation that is eventually completely lost. Swelling and blood-filled blisters will form over the affected area over skin that appears yellowish or waxy. The area will become hard with no resistance when pressed on.

In case of frostbite get to a warm place as soon as possible and immediately seek medical help. Softly handle or warm the area gently – never rub the affected area. Gently and slowly warm up, never exposing directly or close to fire. The affected area can be warmed up slowly by soaking in lukewarm water until the area appears red and feels  warm. Loosely bandage the affected area with dry, sterile dressings. If the fingers and/or toes are affected, place dry, sterile gauze between them to keep them separated. Avoid breaking any blister. Do not allow the affected area to refreeze. Again, seek medical treatment as soon as possible.

We at Clear Lake Physical Therapy and Rehab Specialists want to help you stay healthy and active to enjoy our winter wonderland!  If you have any questions about how physical therapy might be an added benefit in your life, please call us at 715.262.4103 or stop in and see us at 417 3rd Avenue in Clear Lake.