Wind chill values are exceeding -45 this week in parts of Alberta, leaving exposed skin vulnerable to frostbite.
“Frostbite is freezing of the skin and tissues below the skin,” according to Alberta Health Services. “How severe the frostbite is depends on how long the person was exposed to cold, the temperature, the wind chill and the humidity.”
Frostbite most often occurs on the feet, hands, ears, nose and face. In extreme conditions, if not properly dressed for the cold, men can even experience frostbite on their genitals.
At first, frostbitten skin will “feel a little bit cold and be a little bit more pale than the rest of the surrounding tissue,” Alex Campbell, AHS spokesperson, said.
“As frostbite progresses, it might become sort of white and waxy on the surface. And then as it gets worse you might get some stiffness in the tissue,” Campbell continued.
If the tissue is damaged enough, it will become quite rigid to the touch, and eventually blister and become discoloured.
If you think you’re dealing with minor frostbite, “avoid using things such as hot water or hot packs… you can actually burn yourself from warming it up too quickly,” Campbell said.
“So you really want to do it very slowly and methodically with just passive room temperature or a warm water bath.”
If the tissue doesn’t seem to be thawing out, if the blisters are extremely painful, or if they start popping and become exposed to infection, Campbell said that’s when you should seek medical attention.
“If someone has signs of moderate hypothermia where they’re actually having trouble speaking, where they’ve stopped shivering, or they just don’t seem right, that would definitely be time to call an ambulance.”
Campbell said emergency medical services were deployed 22 times in the past seven days in Edmonton for environmental type injuries ranging from minor frostbite to severe hypothermia.
According to Environment Canada, “the risk of frostbite increases rapidly when wind chill values go below -27.”
Watch below: Jesse Beyer delivers his full weather forecast for for Edmonton, Alberta and the surrounding area on Jan. 10, 2017.