ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – In extreme cold temperatures it doesn’t take long for exposed skin to feel the effects and area hospitals are reporting cases of frost bite over the last couple days — and are expecting more.

With several big outdoor events planned this weekend people need to take extra care and be prepared for the frigid temperatures.

Health experts agree it starts with proper protection from the cold, but Dr. Christopher Morin says it’s also important to know the signs something may be seriously wrong.

“If you begin to look at your hand and you can’t see the pink tissue, and it’s all white, and particularly if you can’t feel the skin, you’re in trouble,” said Morin, Executive Director of the Hyperbaric Oxygen Program at Swedish Medical Center.

Pat Cullinane says he’s reached that point once before.

“This was back when I was a teenager and I had a job working outside at a gas station, and I was out there all day long and didn’t quite have the right gloves on. So got some frostbite,” Cullinane said.

Morin says frostbite can be a real concern in high elevations. The Hyperbaric Oxygen Program is a therapy that in extreme cases of frostbite can be used to save limbs

“You’ve got dead tissue coming off, new tissue trying to regrow, you’re trying to stimulate the regrowth, your using hyperbaric oxygen to achieve that,” Morin said.

Inside the chamber a patient is breathing 100 percent compressed oxygen, and Morin says the more oxygen carried to a wound, the more likely it will be to heal.

Although he says the therapy can help, the best way to avoid reaching that point is being smart about the cold.

“It’s lengthy exposure, what you’re feeling, and if you lose the feeling in your fingers or your toes, it’s time to stop doing whatever you’re doing and seek warming,” Morin said.

Those who are going to be out in the cold for a long duration of time should be sure to wear light, loose, layered clothing with a water proof coat on top. Also remember to protect the head, hands and feet, and don’t drink alcohol. Doctors say alcohol can leave the skin more prone to thermal injury.


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