© Austin M. Davis
Being able to see your breath is not nearly the worst thing that could happen to you during a cold snap.
Prevention of frostbite and hypothermia is the best kind of treatment.
As temperatures won’t be above the -20 C mark until next week, it’s important to wear mitts, proper footwear, a toque and to dress in layers.
“Frostbite tends to be localized,” said Michael Brenholen, St. John Ambulance Saskatchewan director of operations.
“You get kind of a waxy, white-ish skin area, for example, on your earlobe or fingertips or a patch of skin that’s been exposed. It tends to be a very specific area that’s affected. Especially with the wind chills that we’ve been getting these days, frostbite is a consideration. It doesn’t take long.”
Brenholen said age doesn’t directly connect to how long it takes a person to get frostbite. Circulation and bodily constitution are the most prominent factors, so elderly people can be at a higher risk.
While the danger of ongoing frostbite is potential tissue damage, death is the outcome of untreated hypothermia.
“It starts with the shivering, and that’s mild. Everybody has had mild hypothermia, sometime in their life, especially living in this country,” Brenholen said. “As it progresses, you’ll start to see other symptoms such as the blue-ing of the lips, lack of circulation and numbness in the extremities. As it gets even worse, you’ll start to see differences in the person’s actual response and awareness to what’s going on around them.”
Extreme hypothermia is when a person is cold they actually stop shivering. Brenholen said that’s very serious and someone in that condition should be taken to hospital immediately.
He said the length of time it takes for someone to get to that stage is flexible.
“It also depends on how cold things are. Generally speaking, the colder it is, the shorter of period time it is until severe effects,” Brenholen said.
He said as soon as you notice yourself getting the symptoms of either frostbite or hypothermia, getting yourself to a warm environment is the only way to solve it.
You can treat frostbite, by gently taking the area in a warm hand. More severe cases, and larger exposed parts of skin, may need medical assistance.
Treating hypothermia is also best treated indoors.
“If you’re starting to get the shivers and shakes, you get inside and out of the cold and out of the wind,” Brenholen said.
He said people often overlook how much heat we lose to the ground. Getting behind a snow bank that blocks the wind isn’t enough. Individuals on the ground need to be insulated from it. That goes for camping or any emergency scenarios.
“Prevention is the best cure,” Brenholen said.
Friday will feel like -33 C with 20 km/h northwestern winds. Saturday’s low is -35 C with a high of -25. Sunday’s low is -29 with a high of -22.
In Thursday's Times-Herald we did not put in the complete story. We apologize for this inconvience and will have the full story in Friday's paper.