Frostbite, hypothermia symptoms can begin in minutes during cold exposure

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HARRISBURG, Pa. - Being outside in the frigid temperatures we're experiencing can have some serious effects on your health. Just a few minutes outside could cause frostbite or hypothermia. People around Pennsylvania are bundling up to brave the freezing cold weather.

Many people in Central Pennsylvania aren't taking any chances when braving the cold, they're layering up.

"I have four layers on," said Nancy Ueberroth.  "Three on the bottom and four on the top."

As temperatures fall into the single digits, with wind chills below zero, it can take minutes for frostbite and hypothermia to set in when parts of your body are exposed.

"The big situations, it happens with are when someone is unexpectedly out in the cold," said Richard Keene, Geisinger Holy Spirit CRNP. "So they're driving to work, their car runs out of gas on the way in, or something happens and they need to walk to the gas station a mile up the road."

To be prepared for that type of situation, you should keep blankets, an extra jacket, gloves and warm boots in your car as backup because you'll never know when something could happen.

"We are all wearing our work shoes to work in the morning," said Keene. "But if you do have get out in the elements you can easily get frostbite on your toes."

Signs of frostbite are a prickling feeling in your skin, numbness, and red, white or blue colored skin. If you experience any of these symptoms you should get inside immediately, and if they don't improve within a few minutes you should call 911.

When it comes to hypothermia, the earliest sign is shivering, but when someone becomes confused, has slurred speech, or their body temperature drops below 95 degrees, you should call 911. As the temperature continues to drop, some people tell us they aren't taking any chances.

"Once I get home today, that's it until a car comes to pick me up tomorrow," said Ueberroth.

If your fingers begin to experience frostbite, you should not run them under hot water, but lukewarm water to help prevent any burning or damage to the tissue.

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