Lauren Hensley, For The Miami Student

It is the time of year when walking to class is bitter and painful.

When the wind is blowing and the ground is covered in ice waiting to be slipped upon, concerns of frostbite are sometimes forgotten. It is important to be bundled up from head to toe.

Frostbite occurs when the skin exposed is too cold because the tissue underneath it begins to freeze and ice crystals are formed, according to Gail Walenga, assistant vice president of Miami University’s student health services.

Walenga also said the area that experiences frostbite may itch or burn and it may even begin to look white or gray.

She said other symptoms include the area feeling hard to the touch and possible formation of blisters or hardening, just as a severe burn might do.

Walenga recommends wrapping the vulnerable parts of the body in a warm blanket.

“Whatever you do, do not stand in front of a heat lamp or a fireplace because it is numb and you won’t know if it has had too much (heat),” she said.

If the pain remains, Walenga said it is crucial to go to the emergency room.

Doctors in the emergency room will treat the body part with frostbite just as if it was a severe burn and will wrap it up and treat with antibiotics and ointments, Walenga said. 

Walenga believes the risk of frostbite increases especially during the evening when the temperature goes down with the sun.

Junior Brittany Sanders said she experienced a mild case of frostbite when she went uptown in ballet flats during a snowstorm.

On her journey back to Porter Hall, she walked down an alley of snow and progressively felt like needles were poking her feet, especially in her toes.

“This made it difficult for walking because the toes were beginning to freeze” Sanders said.

When she got home, Sanders ran lukewarm water over her toes to help them return to normal, but this created a feeling of a moderate burn.

She woke up the next morning to a still burning and tingling sensation in her toes with a hint of redness.

“My feet continued to hurt as I tried to move around for the next two days” Sanders said.

Sanders decided not to get treated because she said “it was fine but just a close call.”

Freezing weather can occur very quickly and can cause situations similar to Sanders’ experience.

Walenga encourages students to take precaution by covering up the sensitive areas such as the ears, head, nose, face and hands when outdoors for any amount of time.

The Student Health Center doesn’t usually treat any patients with frostbite, Walenga said. So far this year, no frostbite patients have been treated by the Student Health Center.

Karen Miller, director of the emergency center at McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital, said the hospital has not treated anyone recently and the center doesn’t keep track of patients treated for frostbite.

As with most medical problems, Walenga said the best thing to do to prevent frostbite from happening is to stay warm.