Freezing temperature safety tips: frostbite and sledding

CLEVELAND - Frostbite is nothing new to Ronald Yarbrough of Cleveland. He said he's had if often, most recently just a couple of weeks ago.

"I was outside for about five minutes or so," he said, "just walking to the bus stop."

Frostbite is an injury to exposed skin and tissue, caused by freezing. Metrohealth Medical Center Emergency Department Chairman Dr. Charles Emerman said the amount of time a person must be exposed to the cold before frostbite sets in depends on several factors, including how cold it is, the wind, whether the person is wet, the age of the person, health issues such as circulatory problems, and even alcohol consumption.

"It (alcohol) decreases your sensitivity to the cold so you don't know you're getting cold," he said.

Emerman said frostbite patients should never rub their hands in the snow, but instead put them in lukewarm water. Also, never partially warm up and then return outside. Stay in. And, if the frostbitten part is still numb 15 to 20 minutes later or if blisters develop, seek medical treatment.

Sledding injuries also send tens of thousands of kids to emergency rooms each year.

Dr. Deb Lonzer at the Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital said about half of those injuries are bruises, cuts, scrapes and fractures.  A third are head injuries.

Picking the right sledding spot is critical to sledding safety.

"If you see a bunch of teenaged boys you don't want to take your 7-year-old girl over there because she's going to end up getting crushed," she said.

She advises against using the saucer sleds.

"The best sleds are the steerable sleds," she said, "and you should steer them with your feet."

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