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CHICAGO — Why your skin is at risk in frigid temperatures. When it gets cold, your body conserves heat by limiting blood flow to your skin … instead sending blood flow to protect vital internal organs. So how do you protect your outer layer while outside in the elements?

This may just be a dummy, but it was designed by very wise people to show you exactly what happens when frigid air grips your body.

Jason Dupuis, Museum of Science and Industry Educator: “I can control all his vital signs, and I have him set up to show signs of frostbite mild hypothermia.”

Going into survival mode, blood vessels shrink – limiting the amount of blood travelling to far appendages like fingers and toes.

Jason Dupuis: “He has blue fingertips, he has blue toes, he’s shivering.”

They are the first to experience the pain from cold and among the most critical to cover appropriately in dangerous temperatures.

Jason Dupuis: “The blood is concentrated in our head and trunk and then our extremities end up getting less blood so they are more exposed to things like frostbite.”

Normally blood flows in an even and continuous loop throughout the body to and from the heart. That is restricted in the cold as the body seeks to maintain core body temperature and protect vital organs like the heart and brain. Limit exposure to protect yourself. If you have to be outside, hide all skin surfaces.

Jason Dupuis: “You need to keep covered so you want to limit exposed skin all together, especially your ears, your nose, your fingertips, your toes.”

Dress in layers – as air trapped between layers is warmer that the outside air.

Jason Dupuis: “And keep moving because that keeps your blood flowing and keeps you warm.”

And keep your eyes peeled for signs of frostnip – the precursor to frostbite — red or pale skin, prickling or numbness.


What you can do to prevent frostbite:

  • It’s important to prevent prolonged exposure to these temperatures.
  • And if you have to be outside, make sure you cover up fingers, toes, ears and even your face.
  • Mittens are warmer than gloves, so opt for mittens if you have them!
  • Dress in layers: air trapped between the layers can actually help keep you warm.
  • Watch for signs: Early signs of frostbite include red or pale skin, prickling, and numbness.
  • Keep moving if you are outside. That can help with blood flow and help you stay warm.