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Sub-zero temperatures create health hazard for Bozeman residents

By Grace Ditzler, KTVM Reporter, gditzler@ktvm.com
Published On: Dec 06 2013 11:03:09 PM MST
Updated On: Dec 06 2013 11:23:05 PM MST
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

With temperatures continuing to plummet, people run the risk of getting frost bite or hypothermia if they're outside for too long.

These temperatures are creating dangerous conditions for people spending extended time outdoors, and we're told this could cause a problem over the weekend, especially with the upcoming Christmas strolls in Butte and Bozeman, and people going out on the town.

Bozemanites on Friday night said the cold temperatures are painful, and they're trying to handle it the best they can.

"You have to bundle up," said Belgrade resident Sandy Mcjunkin. "The only thing that shows is my face. I try to heat the car and get in it and not walk too far."

People said they're staying out of the elements as much as possible.

But this weekend many people will be spending time outside as they attend the Christmas stroll on Saturday, and the temperatures will continue to drop, making for dangerous conditions.

Medical personnel told NBC Montana because of that, they're worried about frost bite and hypothermia.

"Frost bite comes in two forms," said Leif Iverson, a paramedic with American Medical Response in Bozeman. "There's frost nip and frost bite."

"It's very similar to a burn in the damage it does to the skin cells," he explained. "Frost nip, you can think of as a kind of a sun burn, that as where the skin gets cold and starts to turn red. Then there's frost bite when the skin cells start to freeze. That's where you get the white, waxy appearance."

He said it doesn't take long for the effects of hypothermia to kick in.

"Your normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees," he said. "The first degree of hypothermia is 95, and it progresses down to below 85 when things get bad and that results in death."

He said bundling up is the first thing you can do to protect yourself, but there's other steps to take to keep yourself safe, like staying hydrated.

"If your blood volume isn't high enough, you're not going to be able to keep circulation to your skin to keep your nose and ears warm," Iverson explained. "So lots of water intake is key there. Avoid alcohol, avoid coffee, anything that can dehydrate you like that."

People said they'll make sure to stay safe if they stay outside, so they can focus on having fun and enjoying the holiday season this weekend.

"I am wearing my big huge parka," said Krista Wright, a Bozeman resident. "I work in the Arctic, so I have a lot of clothes that protect you from the cold, so I've been wearing the clothes that I would normally wear when I'm working in the Arctic in Bozeman!"

Here are some signs you may be hypothermic:

If you cannot stop shivering, immediately go into a warmer place, if you are past the point of shivering, seek medical attention.

As for frost bite: if your fingers, toes, nose or ears, are numb and have a white/waxy look, warm them up by going inside or running luke warm tap water over them. If they're not getting better in 20 minutes, again, head to the doctor.