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What causes frostbite? A doctor explains.

Monday, January 6, 2014 at 12:38 PM

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With temperatures expected to continue dropping as the day wears on, ideastream health reporter Sarah Jane Tribble reached out to an emergency doctor to find out exactly what we should be concerned about when it comes to frostbite.

Dr. Justin Yax, an emergency physician at University Hospitals, says areas with low circulation, such as toes, fingers, noses, cheeks and ears are most susceptible to frostbite. 

He says frostbite develops in stages, the first of which is numbness. Yax says when you feel that, go inside immediately to warm up.  He says if you don’t, real damage can result. 

“The tissue gets damaged. There’s actually ice crystals because, you know, our body is largely water. And so if you have these areas that have rapid heat loss, crystals, that ice, actually form around the cells and inside the cells and that will actually impede their function. It will actually damage their function,” Yax says.

Yax advises people to stay indoors during this cold snap, and if they have to go outside, they should limit their time, and bundle up. 

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