Dressing for the cold? Be smart

Published On: Dec 24 2013 05:50:48 PM CST   Updated On: Dec 05 2013 05:59:48 AM CST

As the mercury drops, the possibility of cold related injuries increase.

Depending on the temperature and windchill, it could take just minutes for frostbite to start setting in on fingers, toes and ears.

"It really is common enough that they need to be thinking about it," said Dr. Gretchen Dickson, program manager of Wesley Family Medicine. "I don't think people realize how dangerous cold weather can be."

Dr. Dickson tells Eyewitness News that many patients that come in with frostbite were simply unaware of the dangers of the cold.

"If you are outside and the minute you get out the door you think 'Oh my gosh I'm so cold,' you probably don't have enough layers of clothes on," said Dr. Dickson. "We see people who just weren't thinking and didn't protect themselves, we see it in people who didn't plan to be out as long as they wound up being outside and then those who get trapped outside can certainly get frostbite quickly."

When temperatures are below freezing, it's good to wear at least three layers. The first should be something breathable.

"If you are running in and out you might be sweating too, so you want something breathable next to your skin," said Dickson. "Having a wet layer closest to you is not going to be comfortable long term."

The second layer should be a loose layer.

"You want to think about making some space between your clothing and your skin so you can trap that pocket of hot air and keep that heat closer to your body," said Dr. Dickson.

The third later needs to be wind and water proof if possible.

"The outer layer, you do want it to be tightly woven, water tight if that's possible," said Dr. Dickson. "You want something that can keep moisture away from you and keep the warm air in."

Make sure to cover your head AND your ears.

"You're going to lose a lot of heat from your head because of surface area and that's where the wind is going to hit," she said. "In Kansas you can't really negate the impact of the wind. So you're going to want something that will stay on and keep your head warm. The thing to remember is even if you do a hat you still want to protect your ears. They can be fragile."

Also, mittens are warmer than gloves.

"Mittens keep your fingers together, so it spreads the warmth from on finger to the next finger if you will," she said. "Mittens are great but they are impractical for a lot of us. People get frustrated with mittens and in most cases will just take them off. In that case you'd be better off with gloves. Because having something on is better than nothing."

Your ears, toes and fingers are likely the first body parts to show signs of frostbite.

"People are going to see the tips of their fingers become red, they look inflamed. That's something is going on there, you may see eventually the tips of your fingers go white. Your body is pretty smart, it's going to try to hold warmth in the most important organs like your chest, your heart, your lungs and your brain. Everything else is it says is expendable. So as the blood starts flowing away, you'll see the tips of your fingers turn white and then a blue color as you lose circulation."

People will often complain of loss of feeling to their fingers or feeling pins and needles on their fingertips. Dr. Dickson said if you start feeling pain, it's time to call your family doctor.

To see how quickly frostbite sets in a various temperatures click here.