Cold injuries: How to identify hypothermia, frostbite and frostnip
Pedestrians walk by River Landing beside the South Saskatchewan River during an extreme cold warning in Saskatoon, Sask. on Friday, February 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Kayle Neis
REGINA -- As a polar vortex keeps temperatures in Saskatchewan below minus 45, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) is reminding residents of the dangers associated with the severe cold.
“With the temperatures as cold as they are and the winds as strong as they are, frostbite can occur in just a few minutes,” Terri Lang, Environment Canada meteorologist, said.
Lang said extreme cold can lead to hypothermia and quickly become fatal.
“But you also have to cover your extremities up, your hands, your face as much as you can so you can see, have a hat on your head, that type of thing, and that will help keep the heat in as much as it can,” Lang said.
Lang said she expects the extreme cold weather to stick around until the end of the week and wants residents to make sure they are properly prepared and have an emergency cold weather kit available at all times, especially in vehicles in case motorists get stuck in a storm.
With temperatures this cold, the agency said it is important to know how to identify and respond to cold injuries.
Hypothermia occurs when the body is losing heat faster than it can produce it.
Symptoms: Shivering, confusion, loss of muscular control
There are three stages of hypothermia, according to Health Canada.
Stage One: Body temperature drops by one or two degrees, body begins to shiver. Hands become numb and goose bumps can be seen. People may feel tired or sick. Individuals experiencing hypothermia may feel a warm sensation meaning they are moving in the second stage of hypothermia
Stage Two: Movements are slow a laboured after the body has dropped two to four degrees in temperature. Extremities may start turning blue and individuals will become confused and pale.
According to Health Canada, if you struggle to touch your little finger to your thumb, your muscles are not working properly and you are experiencing stage two hypothermia.
Stage Three: If the body drops lower than 32 degrees celsius, the shivering will stop but thinking, walking and talking will be difficult. Amnesia can occur in this phase. Death is a risk at this stage.
Action: Seek immediate medical attention, get indoors and remove cold, wet clothing, warm the body gradually and slowly.
Frostbite occurs when extremities such as the nose, ears cheeks, chin, fingers and toes freeze due to blood vessels close to the skin contracting to protect the core body temperature.
Symptoms: White, waxy skin that feels hard, loss of feeling, numbness
Action: Get medical help immediately. In severe cases, frostbite can result in amputation. Do not rub or massage the area. Warm the frostbitten body part gradually. Use heat or warm water.
Frostnip, or mild frostbite, occurs when blood vessels close to the skin constrict to protect the core body temperature.
Symptoms: Skin appears white or yellow but is still soft, with a painful tingling or burning sensation
Action: Do not rub or massage the area, warm the area gradually with body heat or warm water.
With files from CTV News Regina's Colton Wiens.