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Frostbite Expert Offers Tips For Dealing With ‘Polar Vortex’

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(credit: CBS) Reg Chapman
Reg Chapman joined WCCO-TV in May of 2009. He came to WCCO fr...
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On a brutal day in Minnesota, our temperature is similar to Antarctica, or the peak of Mount Everest.

“If you’re not dressed to make the assault on the peak, you shouldn’t be out today,” said Dr. Bill Mohr, co-director of burn center at Regions Hospital.

At these temperatures, skin can freeze quickly – surprisingly quickly.

“At 25-below zero, maybe 10 minutes,” he said. “At 50-below, which is the wind-chill in many places today, only five minutes.”

Mohr is a frostbite expert and he says you have to dress like your car might stall.

“Even if you had your heater on, if your car quits, the temperature will quickly drop, and again you’ll have five to 10 minutes until you’re dealing with frostbite.”

In extreme cases, damage can happen inside arteries. And that’s where Regions and other hospitals now use clot-busting medications.

“It’s the same types of medications that they use for people having heart attacks to re-establish blood flow,” he said, “or for people who are having a stroke to get those blood vessels back open.”

The treatment breaks open the clots that can develop in arteries, and can cut down on amputations by 80 percent. Still, Dr. Mohr has a better way to avoid frostbite complications.

“If you don’t really have an important reason to be out on a day like today,” he said, “then you shouldn’t be out.”

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