Advice for Surviving the Winter Vortex from the Red Cross, the American Academy for Dermatology, The Mayo Clinic and Shirley from Your Patient Next Door Support Team

Hello and welcome to a brutally cold Wednesday morning in most of the United States. It’s Shirley from your Patient Next Door Support Team.

The winter vortex is here, an in Illinois where I live the actual air temperature is -8 F (-22 C) and the wind chill is -49 F (-45 C)!

I decided to get up early this morning and send out to all my readers the warning and advice I received in my email from the American Red Cross of Illinois.

Please, heed their warnings and take precautions to safeguard you and your family’s lives.

A Few Warnings from Patient Next Door

Do not go outside unless it is absolutely necessary. It only takes ten minutes of skin exposure to these temperatures to cause frostbite.

The most vulnerable areas on your body are your fingers, toes, nose, and ears. However, one can die quickly if you fall and cannot get up or are involved in a car wreck where you cannot get out and get to safety.

Bring your pets inside if you have not already done so. If you have left them out last night, they are most likely already deceased.

Some Important Tips from the Red Cross


Winter weather poses unique challenges to people faced with bitter cold, snow, and ice. The American Red Cross has steps you should take to stay safe if you are in the path of winter storms.

“A winter storm is headed to this region and we have safety tips everyone can follow to stay safe,” said Lyn Hruska, Regional Chief Executive Officer, American Red Cross Central and Southern Illinois.

“Whether trying to keep your home warm or having to be outside in the cold, you can follow these steps to get through the storm.”


It’s that time of year when many people resort to space heaters and other sources to keep their homes warm. Home heating is the second leading cause of fires in this country. To reduce the risk of heating related fires, the Red Cross recommends these steps:

All heaters need space. Keep children, pets and things that can burn (paper, matches, bedding, furniture, clothing, carpets, and rugs) at least three feet away from heating equipment.

If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs, carpets or near bedding or drapes. Plug power cords directly into outlets – never into an extension cord.

Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended and use a glass or metal fire screen to keep fire and embers in the fireplace.

Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.

Turn off portable space heaters every time you leave the room or go to sleep.


Wear layers of clothing, a hat, mittens, and waterproof, insulated boots.

Be careful when tackling strenuous tasks like shoveling snow in cold temperatures.

Check on your neighbors, especially elderly people living alone, people with disabilities and children.

Bring pets indoors. If they can’t come inside, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water.

Watch for hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia symptoms include confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. Frostbite symptoms include numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, or waxy feeling skin.


Stay off the road if possible during severe weather. If you must drive in winter weather, follow these tips:

Make sure everyone has their seat belts on and give your full attention to the road.

Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on snowy roadways.

Don’t use cruise control when driving in winter weather.

Don’t pass snow plows.

Ramps, bridges and overpasses freeze before roadways.

Symptoms of Frostbite and Preventative Measures from The American Academy of Dermatology 

It is important to include this section on frostbite, its symptoms and how to prevent it from occurring. This is important, so please, don’t skim over it and forget what it says.

To stay warm and prevent frostbite, follow these tips from dermatologists:

Dress in loose, light, comfortable layers: Wearing loose, light layers helps trap warm air. The first layer should be made of a synthetic material, which wicks moisture away from your body. The next layer should be insulating. Wool and fleece are good insulators and hold in more body heat than cotton. The top layer should be windproof and waterproof. A down parka and ski pants can help keep you dry and warm during outdoor activities.

Protect your feet and toes: To protect your feet and toes, wear two pairs of socks. The first pair, next to your skin, should be made of moisture-wicking fabric. Place a pair of wool or wool-blend socks on top of those. Your boots should also provide adequate insulation. They should be waterproof and cover your ankles. Make sure that nothing feels tight, as tight clothing increases the risk of frostbite.

Protect your head: To protect your ears and head, wear a heavy wool or fleece hat. If you are outside on a bitterly cold day, cover your face with a scarf or face mask. This warms the air you breathe and helps prevent frostbite on your nose and face.

Protect your hands: Wear insulated mittens or gloves to help protect your hands from the cold.

Make sure snow cannot get inside of your boots or clothing: Wet clothing increases the risk of developing frostbite. Before heading outdoors, make sure that snow cannot easily get inside of your boots or clothing. While outdoors, if you start to sweat, cut back on your activity or unzip your jacket a bit.

Keep yourself hydrated: Becoming dehydrated also increases the risk of developing frostbite. Even if you are not thirsty, drink at least one glass of water before you head outside, and always drink water or a sports drink before an outdoor workout. In addition, avoid alcohol, as it increases your risk for frostbite.

Recognize the symptoms: To detect frostbite early, when it’s most treatable, it’s important to recognize the symptoms.  The first signs of frostbite include redness and a stinging, burning, throbbing or prickling sensation followed by numbness. If this occurs, head indoors immediately.

The Stages of Frostbite from The Mayo Clinic  

Signs and symptoms of frostbite include:

  • At first, cold skin and a prickling feeling
  • Numbness
  • Red, white, bluish-white or grayish-yellow skin
  • Hard or waxy-looking skin
  • Clumsiness due to joint and muscle stiffness
  • Blistering after rewarming, in severe cases

Frostbite is most common on the fingers, toes, nose, ears, cheeks and chin. Because of skin numbness, you may not realize you have frostbite until someone else points it out.

Frostbite occurs in several stages:

Frostnip is a mild form of frostbite. Continued exposure leads to numbness in the affected area. As your skin warms, you may feel pain and tingling. Frostnip doesn’t permanently damage the skin.

  • Superficial frostbite. Superficial frostbite appears as reddened skin that turns white or pale. Your skin may begin to feel warm — a sign of serious skin involvement. If you treat frostbite with rewarming at this stage, the surface of your skin may appear mottled. And you may notice stinging, burning and swelling. A fluid-filled blister may appear 12 to 36 hours after rewarming the skin.
  • Deep (severe) frostbite. As frostbite progresses, it affects all layers of the skin, including the tissues that lie below. Your skin turns white or bluish gray and you may experience numbness, losing all sensation of cold, pain or discomfort in the affected area. Joints or muscles may no longer work. Large blisters form 24 to 48 hours after rewarming. Afterward, the area turns black and hard as the tissue dies.

The Experience of Shirley from the Patient Next Door Support Team with Frostbite

I have had severe frostbite on my fingers and thumbs back when I had a stroke in December 1999. I fell in the snow and was unable to get up. I had no protection for twenty minutes on my hands and almost lost my fingers. It took me over six months to recover the use of my fingers.

This picture is very graphic, but I cannot stress enough the dangers of leaving skin unprotected in bitter weather. Luckily, my fingers looked more like the picture in the previous photograph, but had my fingers been exposed for only a few minutes more I could have lost my fingertips.

So, I know what I’m saying when I tell you to cover up if you must go outside but stay indoors if at all possible.

Don’t forget to download and utilize our free Patient Next Door app onto your smartphone. With it, you can share the healthcare journey of you and your child with people who are facing similar conditions.

The app isn’t just free, it is ads free!

As always, we here at Patient Next Door love serving you and hope you will join us in aiding others in finding resources and hope.

We here at Patient Next Door bring you this crucial information for only one reason;

We care about you.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are the personal views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of PatientNextDoor. Any omissions or errors are the author’s and PatientNextDoor does not assume any liability or responsibility for them.
















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