With much of the state enduring a blast of Arctic air and wind chills dipping far below zero, doctors warn that this is no ordinary winter weather, even for the heartiest Michiganders.

According to Dr. Laurie Dixon, an ER doctor and Assistant Medical Director of Emergency Medicine at St. Joseph Mercy Livingston, in these conditions, unprotected skin can become frostbitten within just minutes of exposure, and people need to respect the risks this type of weather presents.

Because cold weather causes your body to lose heat faster than it is produced, serious health problems like hypothermia or frostbite can quickly result. Dr. Dixon says if you have to go outside, dress in multiple layers and protect especially your extremities, such as hands, feet and face. You should also avoid overexertion and watch for signs of frostbite, which include loss of feeling or pale appearance of fingers, toes or face. Signs of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, with memory loss, drowsiness and exhaustion representing end-stage symptoms.

Dr. Dixon said while frostbite and hypothermia are certainly a concern, one of the most common injuries in this type of weather are fractured wrists from people slipping on hidden ice and trying to break their fall with an outstretched hand.

Dixon also advises residents to check on family, friends and neighbors who are at risk and if traveling is a necessity, keep a full tank of gas and an emergency preparedness kit in your vehicle. Put warm clothing, such as gloves, blankets and hats, and a cell phone charger in your kit. (JK)