PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Frostnip, frostbite, hypothermia – or just plain cold – when the temperatures drop this low, these are all very real possibilities.

“Just being out there in this weather for just a few minutes, not covering up your fingers, your feet, obviously, increases your chances of frostnip, which is temporary. It gets better after time,” says Dr. Jon Rittenberger, a UPMC emergency room doctor.

Frostnip is a mild form of frostbite. It doesn’t damage the skin permanently. What may start as a prickling or numb feeling on the skin, as it warms may become tingling or even slightly painful.

“We’ve seen a couple of cases of frostbite over the weekend, and fortunately, most people are heeding mom’s advice from childhood of keep your fingers and toes covered,” Dr. Rittenberger said.

That pretty much goes for any exposed skin. A scarf across the face makes a big difference, anything that can protect the skin.

“For most people, if you are starting to get that cold, numb sensation, your fingers burn or hurt, you need to get out of that environment,” says Dr. Rittenberger.

Doctors say hypothermia and frostbite are most likely to happen when people spend prolonged periods of time outdoors or when people live out in the elements, but the cold weather can also have an effect on people who have other health challenges.

“Folks with chronic medical conditions, asthma, emphysema, pulmonary disease, these things can all be made worse by going outside,” Dr. Rittenberger says. “You’re outside and it takes your breath away. That goes to the nth level to someone who has asthma.”

That is why doctors say, if you can, limit your time outdoors; and if you can’t, cover up. Also, if you think you’ve been out too long, get medical attention.

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Lynne Hayes-Freeland