A Siberian cold front has begun to plant its feet across southern Saskatchewan bringing with it some harsh temperatures throughout most of this week.
The windchill has been making it feel around -40 C the first couple mornings of the work week.
When temperatures dip down this low the risk of frostbite becomes higher as any exposure for too long could be very dangerous.
Environment and Climate Change Canada Meteorologist Dan Fulton explains some ways to stay safe from frostbite this week.
“The key is don’t let the cold get ahold of you,” says Fulton. “Dress in layers – the other layers should be wind resistant, keep dry, and don’t have any exposed skin. If you’re travelling it’s always a good idea to have an emergency kit in the car.”
“When you’re actually outside if you do start noticing things like tingling or numbness in your extremities, get somewhere warm as quick as you can and try to warm up. Stay warm and dress well," adds Fulton.
Fulton explains that the temperature at which frostbite begins to set in is dependent on how prepared you are for the cold.
“It could not be very cold and if you’re not prepared or wet then it will get you right then. It doesn’t have to be much below zero degrees.”
According to the Saskatchewan Health Authority, frostbite is defined as the freezing of the skin and tissues below the skin. It occurs when a person is exposed to freezing temperatures [ 0°C (32°F)] or lower for too long.
In saying that though, the severity of frostbite depends on a few factors such as how long a person was exposed to the cold, the temperature, humidity, and most of all the wind chill.
Fulton says that the wind chill is measured by how fast the warm air leaves your body.
“There’s an insulating layer of warm air next to your body and if it’s light or calm winds that warm air stays next to you, but as soon as you get a brisk wind it blows that air away and it feels much colder than it is and you cool off quicker than it is.”
He mentions the main misconception about wind chill values is that the wind lowers the actual air temperature.
“Let’s say it’s -20, but we say with the wind chill it’s -40, then your body is losing heat as though the air temperature is –40 with light or calm winds. It’s a way to convey to people that even though the temperature is not cold outside but with that wind, you’re going to feel a lot colder than the air temperature indicates.”
The pain of frostbite may be severe as the frostbitten skin rewarms. Swelling and blisters are common after rewarming.
Medical treatment for frostbite includes relieving pain and quickly rewarming the frostbite area. This can help prevent problems such as infection, dead tissue, or amputation of the frozen part.