An unwelcome visitor has come to the Chicago area: bone-chillingly cold weather. With that comes an increased chance of getting frostbite, even if you’re just outside for a few minutes.

Frostbite is an injury— almost like a burn—that can potentially damage skin, tissues, muscle and bones.  But it can be prevented.

“As much as possible, you should limit your time outside when the wind chill is low like this,” said Dr. Stathis Poulakidas, Chair of Burn Surgery at Cook County Health’s John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital. “The National Weather Service has warned that this week’s low wind chills could bring frostbite to exposed skin in less than 30 minutes.”

To keep safe, Dr. Poulakidas also recommends the following tips:

  • Cover as much of your face as possible while outside, breathe through a scarf to warm air before it enters your lungs.
  • Wear a warm hat, and keep feet and hands warm and dry.
  • Wear several layers of lightweight clothing, rather than one or two layers of heavy garments. The air between the garments acts as insulation to keep the body warmer.
  • Seek medical attention immediately if you have these symptoms: gray, white or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, waxy feeling skin.
  • Drink warm, caffeine-free, non-alcoholic beverages to stay warm and hydrated.