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Dangerously Cold? Experts Offer Tips On How To Protect Yourself Amid Winter Blast

Caution That Children And Elderly Especially Vulnerable To Frigid Temperatures
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A businessman shivers on a street corner on one of the coldest days of the year on January 23, 2013 in New York City. (credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

A businessman shivers on a street corner on one of the coldest days of the year on January 23, 2013 in New York City. (credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

CBS New York (con't)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The cold temperatures have people very uncomfortable, especially since its been so warm this winter.

But aside from comfort, bitter cold temperatures can also be dangerous if you don’t know how to protect yourself.

Whether or not the cold is actually dangerous depends on a number of things — how long you’re outside, how you’re dressed, whether you have any exposed skin and the temperature itself.

Frostbite is pretty rare, but it is possible to get hypothermia without frostbite, CBS 2′s Dr. Max Gomez reported.

The streets were a lot emptier than usual on Wednesday and the few intrepid New Yorkers who did venture out all had pretty much the same reaction to the cold.

“It’s really, really cold. Really really cold,” Edie Sanchez said.

“I think it’s insane,” John Irabagon added.

“I’m a total wimp when it comes to the cold,” Dan Pratt said.

Still, most everyone seemed to be following the basic rules for staying safe: Cover all skin, wear a hat, hood or cap because you lose a lot of heat through your head and dress in layers.

“I think I have about six or seven layers on, if you count all the way to my skin,” Sanchez said.

Jeffrey Rabrich, the director of the emergency department at St. Luke’s Hospital on the Upper West Side, said there are two groups that are especially vulnerable in the cold.

“Elderly patients or even young children who have a lot of surface area, they don’t weigh that much. They’re small so they can lose heat very quickly so it’s very important that you watch the children, and elderly family members so that they’re dressed appropriately for the weather,” Dr. Rabrich said.

As for frost nip, when your ears, nose, cheeks or fingertips start to hurt, Dr. Rabrich said “never immerse your hands in hot water.”

“You want to warm them up gently, so tepid water, get inside out of the cold, and warm up gradually,” he said.

Finally, drinking alcohol is not great in the cold. It makes you feel warmer because it opens up blood vessels in your skin, but that also means you’re losing heat much more rapidly.

CBS 2′s Gomez also said that with regard to exercise, it should be done indoors because really cold air can irritate airways and even trigger an asthma attack.

And if you’re all sweaty, Gomez said dry off before going outside because wet skin loses heat very quickly.

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