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Protect your skin in the colder months

  • Published
  • By TRICARE Staff

It’s cold outside and you might think that sun protection is for the summer.  Even though the temperature is cooler, the sun is still powerful, so continue to wear sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) of at least 15 with both UVA and UVB protection every day.

Though you may want that sun-kissed look year round, you should stay away from indoor tanning. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every time you tan you are increasing your risk of skin cancer and causing your skin to age prematurely.

It’s not just the sun that you have to worry about as the weather gets colder. Frostbite, an injury to the body caused by freezing is another concern.  Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas, according to the CDC. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. Frostbite can permanently damage the body, and even lead to amputation of a limb.

Be aware that if you have reduced blood circulation, especially to your hands and feet, or are not dressed properly for the weather, then you are at greater risk for frostbite.

If you are experiencing discomfort in the cold, get out of the cold immediately, or protect exposed skin if your skin has any redness or pain. If part of your skin becomes a white or grayish-yellow color, feels unusually firm or waxy or is numb, then you may be experiencing frostbite.

Often, those who get frostbite are usually unaware of it until someone else points it out because their skin tissue is frozen and numb. If you have frostbite, then you may also have hypothermia, which is a serious medical condition also that requires emergency medical assistance. Signs of hypothermia can include shivering, drowsiness, slurred speech and confusion. Call 9-1-1 or go to your nearest emergency room.

If there is frostbite, but no sign of hypothermia, then seek medical care as soon as possible. If you cannot get medical care immediately, try to warm up, and if possible don’t walk on frostbitten feet or toes. Immerse the affected area in warm- NOT hot- water. Don’t rub the frost bitten area with snow or massage the area, as that can cause more damage. Never use heating pads, lamps, stoves, fireplace heat or radiator for warming as frostbitten areas can be easily damaged by excessive heat.