Doctor: Hypothermia can set in in as little as 10 minutes without proper outerwear

CLEVELAND - As another winter storm delivered several inches of snow to the Cleveland area Thursday, doctors warn others of the dangers hypothermia and frostbite.

“If you’re cold and shivering, that’s a good sign,” said Dr. Charles Emerman, an emergency department doctor at MetroHealth Medical Center. “When you stop shivering, that’s the sign that you’re in trouble.”

Hypothermia is a condition where a person’s body temperature drops, and vital organs can’t work correctly.  

“You need to be prepared – coat, hat and gloves, just like your mother told you,” added Emerman.

“I have thermal underwear, I got some rain pants on, boots and of course dress in layers,” said Chris Coutnik, a Cleveland-area US Postal Service mail carrier for the past 27 years.

Frostbite is damage to the skin caused by the cold. The skin, most often the extremities, becomes very cold and numb. It turns white, then black and blue.

“What’s worse for frostbite is if you partially warm your hands then re-freeze them again,” added Emerman. “If you’re out there and your hands are getting cold, you want to warm them and stay warm.”

Coutnik works outside seven hours a day. Besides layers, he said he stays warm by continually moving and walking.

“Where conditions are getting too bad, you might need to take a break, warm up and get back at it when you can,” added Coutnik.

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