PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — With temperatures plummeting into the single digits in the Pittsburgh area, doctors say a combination of knowledge and common sense can go a long way to keeping you out of the emergency room.

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“The elements in and of themselves may not be deadly to a healthy 22-year-old, a person with severe asthma or a person with heart disease or heart failure if they have to deal with those additional stressors that the cold weather causes, they can be thrown into a crisis,” Dr. John O’Neill, of Allegheny General Hospital, said.

Dr. O’Neill says when conditions are like what we’re seeing now, the most frequent ailments range from: slipping on ice, coming down with a cold, hypothermia and frostbite or trench foot.

“You’re out for a long time in the cold and you’re walking through an area with snow, and that snow gets into your shoes and then you start to feel numb, that’s the time when you’ve really got to come in and warm up because when you get to that point where you’re already starting to feel numb, that means there’s already some damage to the tissues and the body’s trying to protect itself,” said Dr. O’Neill.

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Frostbite can happen in less than an hour if exposed skin is wet and in cold enough conditions.

An even more common version is called trench foot.

It’s a lower level type of frostbite that causes red blisters and can take a few weeks to heal.

Dr. O’Neill says the key is to stay warm, but more importantly, dry.

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