Chicago area winters are brutal. Between the seasonal drop in temperature and the winds that blow off of Lake Michigan, we have more than our share of below zero days. Those frigid days and nights come with a number of unpleasant dermatological conditions including dry skin and hair, chapped lips, and the possibility of frostbite, which occurs when the skin freezes due to continued exposure to below freezing temperatures. While most winter health risks are simply uncomfortable, frostbite can result in permanent damage. Luckily, there are steps we can take to protect ourselves. According to the AAD, the following tips will not only help you stay warm, but prevent frostbite, as well:
- Layer Your Clothing
Wearing loose layers helps to trap the warmth that is naturally produced by your body. Your first layer should be made of moisture-wicking materials and your second layer should include heat-retaining materials such as wool or fleece. Your final layer should be both windproof and waterproof to keep warm and dry.
- Protect Your Feet, Head, and Hands
The best way to keep your feet and toes comfortable is by wearing two pairs of socks. Much like layering your clothing, start with moisture-wicking socks and then layer a wool or wool-blend sock on top. Make sure your boots cover your ankles and are waterproof. Cover your ears and head to retain your body heat; if you know that you are going to be outside on an especially cold day, consider covering your mouth and nose with a scarf. Finally, make sure you wear insulated gloves to protect your hands. On bitter cold days, try wearing mittens over your gloves for extra warmth and protection.
- Stay Hydrated
Dehydration increases your risk of frostbite, so make sure you drink a glass of water before going outdoors. If you are heading out for an outdoor workout, drink plenty of water or sports drinks before you begin your activity.
- Water-Proof Yourself
Wet clothing also puts you at greater risk for frostbite. Before stepping outside, make sure that snow cannot get inside your boots or clothes. If you are working out and begin to perspire, unzip your jacket a bit to cool down and prevent excessive sweat from collecting on your clothes.
Despite your best efforts, it may still be possible for you to experience frostbite, so it’s important to recognize the symptoms. Frostbite is most easily treated when it is caught early, so if you experience redness, stinging, burning, or throbbing on your skin that is followed by numbness, head indoors immediately. Once inside, try to gradually bring feeling back to the frostbitten area. Place a warm washcloth on the affected area. If sensation does not return or your skin begins to turn gray, go directly to an emergency room.
If you have questions about frostbite or any other dermatological condition that is caused by our harsh winters, contact Derick Dermatology to schedule an appointment. Our locations in Arlington Heights, Barrington, Crystal Lake, and Elgin combined with our evening and weekend hours make seeing one of our highly qualified doctors more convenient than ever.