How cold is too cold?

Caitlin Husted, Staff Writer

Last week, it seemed as if Mother Nature had a deep hatred for the Midwest or Disney did one heck of a job promoting their new movie “Frozen.” With the temperature dropping below zero for a period of several days, many schools were closed due to the icy temperatures. As complaints circulated around campus about our lack of cancelation, another question circulated as well; why do schools cancel classes because of cold weather?

To many students, it seems a little silly for classes to be canceled because they spend most of their day inside in class right? Although this may be so, if it’s cold enough, it doesn’t take a lot of time outside to see the result from some major health risks.

The major health risk that can come from cold weather is frostbite. According to the CDC, “Frostbite occurs when the skin and body tissue just underneath it freezes.” The person with frostbite’s skin becomes very cold, then numb, hard and pale.

There are four degrees of frostbite a person can contract. The first degree is called frostnip, and only affects the surface of the skin, which is frozen. In this stage, the skin will usually form white, yellow and red patches, which will fade in time.

The second stage of frostbite is a little more severe, but doesn’t result in too much damage. In this stage, a person’s skin may freeze and harden, but the deep tissues are not affected and remain soft and normal. This degree of frostbite will usually result in blisters within one to two days of exposure, and although the blisters may appear hard and blackened, fully recovery should happen within a month.

The third and fourth degrees of frostbite are where things become more extreme. At this point, the muscles, tendons, blood vessels and nerves all freeze. The use of the infected area is lost temporarily, and in some cases, permanently. If the area is too damaged, amputation may be necessary. These stages of frostbite will also result in purplish-black blisters that are normally blood filled. The freezing process of the frostbite may take months to access.

Although frostbite may seem too severe a reason to cancel class, think of it this way. Frostbite can happen within 30 minutes if wind chill makes the temperature feel like -19 or colder. If a child is outside waiting for a school bus, or if a student is walking to class, they can be exposed to the cold temperatures for a longer period of time. Also, if professors or commuters get stuck while driving here, they can be exposed to harsh temperatures for long than then anticipated, thus making them at risk for frostbite.

Rather than risk students being injured, many schools decided to cancel classes for the safety of faculty and students. So although many were upset that classes weren’t cancelled, be happy that the threat of frostbite wasn’t a threat and we were able to carry on life as normal.