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Layering up to prevent frostbite in frigid weather

Newswatch 16's Ally Gallo takes a look at some mistakes people make when protecting themselves from frostbite.

ASHLEY, Pa. — When Jeremy Spallone started his shift Tuesday morning, the wind chill was right around zero.

"Cold this morning, now that the sun's out, ice is melting, it's getting better, but it's still cold," he said. 

But Jeremy's Towing Services, based out of Ashley in Luzerne County, is a 24/7 operation, so the sun is not always shining. So in weather like this, it is important for him to take layering up seriously to prevent frostbite. 

"Gloves on, mask, hat, just stay bundled up and keep warm," he listed off his winter weather essentials. 

It can take only about 30 minutes in weather this cold to get frostbite if you are not protected properly.

"Especially your extremities, so your toes and your fingers, and your nose and your ears. If you're starting to feel tingly or pins and needles or numb, that's usually the first signs of what we call frostnip," said Deborah Erdman, Geisinger Medical Center.  

And those would be your first signs to get someplace warm before it becomes frostbite. Frostbite is when the skin is not getting circulation and the cell tissue just below the skin freezes. Newswatch 16 spoke with Deborah Erdman, the trauma educator and injury prevention coordinator at Geisinger, about mistakes people make in this kind of weather. 

"You need to dress in layers, but not too many layers, especially around your feet. You want your feet loose in your boots so that there can be circulation because if you get them too tight, you can actually cut circulation off and cause more injury," she said.

Erdman also says merino wool or blend is better than cotton. 

"Sweat can actually be more harmful than good. You want to dress in loose layers because your body heat will actually be trapped within those layers and keep you warm."

If you are experiencing symptoms of frostbite, you will want to treat it with gradual warming, not extreme heat. And make sure you don't rub the skin because that can cause even more damage.

Check out severe weather tips on WNEP’s YouTube channel.