Northwoods Doctor Talks About Frostbite And Hypothermia

Jan 5, 2018

Credit Wikimedia Commons Dr. S. Falz

Green Bay police are investigating the death of a 60-year-old woman, but they don't consider it suspicious.

The woman had taken a taxi cab to her home. After she was dropped off, police say it appears she fell while trying to retrieve a key she'd dropped, then hit her head. Her body was found by a relative. Bitter cold temperatures have blanketed Wisconsin for several weeks.

Dr. Rick Brodhead is Medical Director of Emergency Services for Howard Young Medical Center and Ascension-Eagle River Hospital. He says frostbite occurs when exposed skin in the cold for an extended time...

"....a person might notice some numbness or tingling in the affected area. After that you might notice some discoloration. The first thing would be the area is very pale, white-ish or blue-ish in color. Later on, as things progress, you might get some redness of the skin. You'll develop pain and also some swelling...."

He says frostbite acts like a burn. In extreme cases, body parts might be lost to the cold. Dr. Brodhead says the key is good winter wear to cover the skin and keep your skin dry. He says an old remedy is dangerous, that is, rubbing snow on the affected area. He says rapid rewarming is the best treatment.

Hypothermia is a lower body temperature than normal....

"....if we drop below a temperature of 95 a person is going to show symptoms. That's going to be uncontrolled shivering, might show some mental confusion, Subsequent to that, people would become unconcious, go into a coma and freeze to death...."

Green Bay Police say the woman's death emphasizes the importance of drivers waiting to make sure a rider gets inside their home before leaving.