With arctic cold temperatures forecast in Iowa through week's end, the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) reminds Iowans that frigid conditions are not only uncomfortable; they can also be dangerous.
"It is best to stay inside if possible, but if you must be outdoors during these extreme conditions, it is very important to protect yourself against frostbite," said IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. "Cover all skin, including hands, head and ears, neck and face, if going outdoors for any length of time, even if only for a few minutes."
The skin damage caused by frostbite results in a loss of feeling and a grayish color in affected areas. It most often affects exposed skin and extremities such as the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. Frostbite can permanently damage the skin, causing scarring, and severe cases can lead to amputation. Signs of frostbite include a white or grayish-yellow skin area, skin that feels unusually firm or waxy, or numbness. A person is often unaware of frostbite until someone else points it out because the frozen tissues are numb.
If you must be outside for any length of time, make sure you check yourself, others around you, and your children for these signs. If your skin shows these signs of freezing, go into a warm place immediately. Warm up frozen/chilled skin by pressing against normal temperature skin (put cold fingers in arm pits). DO NOT massage frozen/chilled skin, DO NOT rub with snow, and DO NOT place hot items against skin as this could cause even more damage. Seek medical attention if skin does not quickly return to normal color or pain occurs and continues.
More information on frostbite can be found at