How to Avoid the Chilling Consequences of Frostbite

iStock.com/ArtShotPhoto
iStock.com/ArtShotPhoto

A healthy portion of the United States is currently suffering the effects of the polar vortex, a weather phenomenon that has seen temperatures plummet to as low as -26°F in Chicago. Factor in wind speed and anyone caught outside could have to endure wind chills hitting -60°F. For contrast, the Popsicles in your freezer are likely chilling out at a mere 0°F.

These extreme conditions have some real and alarming consequences. In Madison, Wisconsin, seven people were treated Wednesday night for frostbite symptoms, which result from the body rerouting blood and oxygen from extremities to major organs in response to frigid temperatures. As blood vessels narrow, tiny ice crystals form in the skin. The skin freezes, turning blue, firm, or waxy in appearance. Blisters can form. It can also feel numb or tingle. Left untreated, permanent nerve damage or gangrene can result, possibly requiring amputation of the affected body parts.

The risk of developing frostbite depends on duration of exposure and wind chill. The lower the temperature, the less time it takes to develop complications. At a wind chill of -22°F, it would take 31 minutes of exposure. At -45°F, you've got six minutes. Fingers, toes, noses, cheeks, and ears are the sites most commonly affected.

Frostbite stages depend on how deep it's penetrated the skin. Simple frostbite, or frostnip, is superficial, with some redness and subsequent numbness. Warm skin is an indication the frostbite is more advanced. Deep frostbite, which can reach subcutaneous tissue, could mean tissue death.

If you begin to notice symptoms of frostbite, follow your instincts and seek shelter immediately. Once you're inside, resist the urge to rub the affected skin, run it under hot water, or apply a hot compress: Because of the numbness, you won't be able to tell if you're burning yourself. Instead, use warm water and your own body heat—like tucking fingers into your armpits—until you can be seen by a doctor. (Some people may benefit from home treatment until the skin returns to its normal color. If you're unsure, it's best to seek medical advice.)

Of potentially greater concern is hypothermia, a condition in which people lose too much body heat, often brought on by the combination of low temperatures and wet clothing. As the body temperature plummets, people can become disoriented or even lose consciousness. Hypothermia requires medical attention. If the hypothermic person is awake, drinking warm beverages and getting wrapped in warm blankets may help until they can be seen by a physician.

Naturally, the best prevention for both frostbite and hypothermia is avoidance. Stay indoors, preferably until spring.

[h/t The New York Times]

Michigan Hospital’s Neonatal ICU Is in Need of Volunteer ‘Baby Cuddlers’

barsik/iStock via Getty Images
barsik/iStock via Getty Images

You don’t have to be an empty-nester impatiently waiting for grandkids to feel the urge to cuddle a newborn baby. And, unless you or a loved one happens to be raising a baby at the moment, the opportunity doesn’t arise all that often. But if you live in Michigan and have a little extra time on your hands, now is your chance to get the snuggle action that you (and the babies) have been craving.

MLive reports that Covenant HealthCare in Saginaw, Michigan, is looking for volunteers to cuddle, rock, and soothe babies in its Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. It’s no surprise that the hospital takes the safety of its patients—especially infants—very seriously: All applicants must pass a background check, interview, and extensive training before gaining access to the NICU.

You’ll also have to make at least a year-long commitment to volunteer for four hours on a weekly or biweekly basis. Though the NICU staff could use volunteers every hour of every day, right now they only need people to sign up for the graveyard shift—between midnight and 8 a.m.

If staying up past your bedtime once a week sounds like a reasonable trade-off for four hours of tender, loving care and that sweet baby smell, you can apply on Covenant HealthCare’s website here.

Wondering why you now feel the urge to move to Saginaw just so you can cuddle Covenant’s newborns? You can blame evolution. Newborns aren’t so supremely snuggle-worthy just because they’re often soft and doughy; they also have large, round eyes and tiny noses, mouths, and chins. This configuration of facial features is called kinderschema, and it activates our instinct to nurture and protect, giving our species the best chance of survival. You can read more about it here.

[h/t MLive]

A Custom Wheelchair Allowed This Brain-Injured Baby Raccoon to Walk Again

фотограф/iStock via Getty Images
фотограф/iStock via Getty Images

Animal prosthetics and wheelchairs allow dogs, cats, and even zoo animals with limited mobility to walk again, but wild animals with disabilities aren't usually as lucky. Vittles, a baby raccoon rescued in Arkansas, is the rare example of an animal that was severely injured in its natural habitat getting a second shot at life.

As Tribune Media Wire reports, Vittles came to wildlife rehab specialist Susan Curtis, who works closely with raccoons for the state of Arkansas, with a traumatic brain injury at just 8 weeks old. The cause of the trauma wasn't clear, but it was obvious that the raccoon wouldn't be able to survive on her own if returned to the wild.

Curtis partnered with the pet mobility gear company Walkin' Pets to get Vittles back on her feet. They built her a tiny custom wheelchair to give her balance and support as she learned to get around on her own. The video below shows Vittles using her legs and navigating spaces with help from the chair and guidance from her caretaker.

Vittles will likely never recover fully, but now that she's able to exercise her leg muscles, her chance at one day moving around independently is greater than it would have been otherwise. She now lives with her caretaker Susan and a 10-year old raccoon with cerebral palsy named Beetlejuice. After she's rehabilitated, the plan is to one day make her part of Arkansas's educational wildlife program.

[h/t Tribune Media Wire]

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