Frostbite and hypothermia constitute the two major health threats from prolonged exposure to cold temperature.
The most common injury is frostbite, according to the National Safety Council and other organizations. It’s caused by skin freezing, with a loss of feeling and color in the affected areas – usually the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers and toes.
Symptoms include numbness, tingling, aches, and off-color, solid skin. Bad cases can lead to permanent damage to tissue and amputation.
Immediate first aid includes getting to a warm place as soon as possible, avoiding walking on frostbitten toes or feet, and immersing skin in comfortably warm water, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Hypothermia occurs when you lose heat faster than you can produce it, and body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Normal body temperature is 98.6.
Symptoms initially can include shivering, confusion and fatigue. In severe cases, victims can lose consciousness and die. From 1999 to 2011, there were 16,911 hypothermia-related deaths in the United States, according to the CDC.
In addition to seeking medical attention, public health officials recommend treating hypothermia by moving victims out of the cold; surrounding them with blankets or other insulation, especially their heads; and providing dry clothing and a warm beverage.