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Beware of cold injuries while working in the Arctic chill

You’ve probably noticed that it’s cold outside right now — a lot colder than usual. The Arctic chill that has been sweeping across the nation has brought exceptionally cold temperatures to much of the Midwest, including Illinois.

Single-digit temperatures are expected to remain for a while, and the wind chill can make the air even colder. With that in mind, this is a good time to go over the signs of frostbite. Outdoor workers, in particular, need to be aware of the main symptoms.

What is frostbite?

Frostbite (and it’s less-dangerous cousin, frostnip) is an injury to your skin and deeper tissue that is caused by severe cold.

Frostbite commonly hits areas of the body that have less mass and poorer circulation, so fingers, toes, ears, noses and faces are often affected. While exposed skin is always vulnerable, it’s a mistake to think that clothing can totally protect you from frostbite.

What are the signs of frostbite?

The main danger of the severe cold is that you can get frostbite without even knowing it because the cold skin and pricking feeling that serve as an early warning signal soon go away and are followed by:

  • Numbness
  • Changes in your skin color, which can go red, white, bluish or even grayish-yellow
  • Skin that looks and feels hard or waxy
  • Clumsiness due to stiff joints and muscles

Frostbite occurs in stages, with frostnip being the most mild. Frostnip usually goes away without any permanent damage once the skin is warmed up again, but anything further needs immediate medical attention.

What should you do if you get frostbite at work?

Make no mistake: Frostbite is a work injury. In severe cold, it can happen to you whether you’re just shoveling the walk in front of a store or working on a road crew. If you suffer frostbite while working, you have a right to expect workers’ compensation to provide medical coverage and cover part of your lost wages.

When a workers’ comp claim doesn’t go as expected, don’t waste time trying to handle the problem yourself. Speak to an attorney right away.