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Health providers warn of the dangers of extreme cold

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Sawyer Loftus
A bundled Bangorian crosses State Street in Bangor underneath a thermometer outside the Bangor Savings Bank that reads zero degrees, Feb. 3, 2023.

Physicians are cautioning Mainers from spending prolonged time outdoors during the brief but severe cold snap this weekend. Dr. Michael Baumann, chief of emergency medicine at Maine Medical Center, says the cold temperatures combined with the wind chills will make exposed skin susceptible to frostbite, even for outdoor enthusiasts who bundle up.

"It's the parts of the exposed skin you forget about, either where your goggles meet your mask, or at the top of your goggles where the helmet doesn't quite cover, those areas can get frostbitten in between there just because the wind passes right through," he says.

Symptoms of frostbite can develop in as little as five to ten minutes. And Baumann says hypothermia is also a risk, even for people indoors.

"We definitely see people who are in their house, and either they're heat insecure or they are unaware or they're confused, elderly, and then babies are at risk, just because of their bodies, to getting hypothermic," Baumann says.

Baumann says substance use also creates a risk for hypothermia.

State emergency officials are urging Mainers to check on neighbors, friends, and family. More than 160 warming centers are listed on the Maine Emergency Management Agency website.