How extreme cold can affect your health

NARBERTH, Pa. (WPVI) -- If you're not prepared for the extreme cold, it can be dangerous for your health and affect almost every system in your body.

Chris Lane has been delivering mail for two decades. He knows what he needs to do on frigid days like today.

"Layers, layers are very important. I have these outer pants, 3-4 layers under this parka, hands are tough as a mailman," he said. "The one good thing is the sun is out and no wind."

Still, he covers as much skin as possible.

Dr. Kathryn Crowley at Lankenau emergency department says that's key because frostbite can set in quickly.

"Within minutes in this type of temperature if you have exposed skin, within minutes you can start to feel symptoms," she said.

And it doesn't stop there. Extreme cold can affect every organ in your body including your heart and lungs.

"You know it's harder for your lungs to breathe, so if you have asthma or COPD you can develop wheezing," said Dr. Crowley.

Hypothermia is also a concern, especially for seniors and babies. Shivering is the first sign of trouble.

"Then you can start to develop less shivering, get disoriented, numbness, tingling," said Dr. Crowley. "The most important thing is to limit time outside in the cold."

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