Penn State Hershey doctors warn of cold air dangers - abc27 WHTM

Dauphin County

Penn State Hershey doctors warn of cold air dangers

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When temperatures drop, doctors at Penn State Hershey Medical warn exposure can lead to very serious health concerns.

"What actually happens in there is the water inside your body freezes, crystallizes and causes cell damage," Dr. Christopher DeFlitch said.

DeFlitch is referring specifically to hypothermia, which happens when your body temperature drops below 95 degrees. He said fingers and toes are always the first to go, but minor frostbite is not usually a concern, as long as you get inside.

"If your skin is changing colors and it's not changing back -- a little bit of redness is ok, but dark color, black color -- that's not," he said. "That would mean a significant injury is related to it."

According to Penn State Hershey's website, tips for preventing frostbite and hypothermia include: wear mittens (not gloves, which keep your fingers separated), layer with wind-proof, water-resistant clothing, put on two pairs of socks (avoid cotton, which holds moisture) and always have a scarf and hat to cover your ears and top of your head.

If you or someone you know is suffering from hypothermia, doctors say do not apply direct heat to the skin because that can cause the heart to stop. Instead, use blankets, warm compresses and direct body heat. You can also drink warm fluids, but avoid alcohol.

DeFlitch said anyone can find themselves in a dangerous situation when it gets this cold out.

"They're driving their car and run out of gas, or they'll slide off the road and they'll be exposed," he said. "But they didn't expect to be exposed because they're inside their car, but they're not prepared."

Doctors also warn not to leave your car running in a garage because odorless carbon monoxide gas can build up inside, causing immediate poisoning or death.

To watch the full interview with DeFlitch, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnq-M7GkMNk.

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