How to spot and treat frostbite, hypothermia other winter health dangers

ByLA Blake KTRK logo
How to spot and treat frostbite, hypothermia other winter health risks
With cold weather comes increased risk of several kinds of health concerns. Here's a quick guide on what to do if you or a loved one is affected.

With cold weather comes increased risk of several kinds of health concerns. Here's a guide to spotting these in yourself and loved ones.


What it is: Skin tissue has frozen up.

What it looks like: The affected area, usually extremities like fingers and toes, goes numb and turns grayish-yellow or white.

What to do: Seek medical help. Immerse frostbitten area in warm water. Don't rub it.

How to prevent it: Bundle up and know the risks. The colder it is and the higher the wind speeds, the quicker you can get it.

National Weather Service

Where can I learn more? From the Centers for Disease Control


What it is: The body is losing heat faster than it can replace it.

What it looks like: The person may be shivering or confused and in severe cases can lose consciousness. If their temperature is below 95 degrees, it's an emergency.

What to do: Move the person to a dry, warm place and give them a warm, sugary beverage without caffeine. If it's severe, call 911.

How to prevent it: As with frostbite, the best defense is dressing properly and avoiding prolonged exposure.

Learn more: From the Centers for Disease Control


What it is: It's like a less severe version of frostbite, and it's only in the feet.

What it feels like: You'll have tingling or burning, and sometimes blisters.

What to do: Soak your feet in warm water. Drink a warm, sugary beverage.

How to prevent it: Keep your feet dry, especially in the cold, and change socks as often as possible.

Learn more: From the Occupational Health & Safety Administration


Risks on ice: When you slip and fall, it can cause fractures, sprains or broken bones, especially in ankles and wrists.

What to do: If you fell and think you hurt something, seek help sooner rather than later because your injury could get worse with time.

How do I prevent it? This handout gives you a step-by-step, but the gist of it is to walk like a penguin and if you do fall, don't tense up.


The dangers: Blood vessels tighten up in the cold. That and any extra exertion could increase the risk of a heart attack.

How to prevent it: When shoveling snow, go slow and avoid consuming alcohol, which could increase your risk, an American Heart Association spokesperson told ABC News.


What CO is: It's a colorless, odorless gas that is emitted from fuel-burning appliances, cars and combustion equipment.

Why it's dangerous: The air can become dangerous for people and animals when CO is not allowed to vent, like when cars are left running in garages.

What CO poisoning looks like: Symptoms include headache, dizziness and confusion.

What to do: CO poisoning can turn deadly quickly. Turn off the appliance and leave the affected area immediately. Then seek medical attention.

How to prevent it: Never run a CO-emitting device in an enclosed space without proper ventilation. Know the symptoms so you can recognize CO poisoning in yourself when you see it.

Learn more: From this CDC fact page and the Department of Housing and Urban Development