A doctor at Southern Health says we need to take the cold weather seriously to avoid permanent damage from frostbite. Dr. Denis Fortier, Vice-President of Medical Services, says during weeks like this, where the wind chill is near -40, it's vital to make sure we are properly dressed. He describes the consequences of severe frostbite where the blood has become crystallized in a particular area of the body.
"There is irreversible damage and the blood supply can no longer return to those parts of the body and you end up losing those parts of the body, so that's fairly permanent. There are other people who have, I'll say, milder versions of frostbite. And, although they may get full functioning back of their fingers and ears and noses and stuff, they will note for many, many years and maybe for the rest of their life, that those parts of the body are exquisitely sensitive to heat and cold for the rest of their life."
Fortier adds he can speak from personal experience.
"I did some spend some time in some very cold weather with my ears exposed and one of my ears got about three times the size of normal. And, it is, even today, 35 years later, a weak spot for me when I go out. I have to make sure that ear is protected otherwise it gets red a lot easier and it hurts a lot easier and faster than the other one."
Ultimately, he says the best advice he can give is to avoid frostbite altogether by dressing properly in cold weather. Fortier explains what we should do if we get frostbite. If you do get the mild version of frostbite, where the cheeks turn white, for example, simply use a warm cloth to heat up the skin.
"But sometimes you have people come in and the damage is a little bit further on and they have blistering. It's almost like a burn. And then you have to take care of those blisters. You have to manage them just like you would manage a second or third degree burn, in terms of wrapping them and protecting them and, sometimes, giving antibiotics when those blisters burst."