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Published: Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014 5:30 p.m. CDT

I have never heard so much complaining about the weather and haven’t heard so many people swearing that they’re thinking of moving south permanently before.

You have to admit one thing, for sure. This winter gave us fishable ice very early and it has maintained safe ice thickness throughout.

With a nice layer of thick ice, you need not worry about falling in, so slipping and falling on your keister is the only hazard you have to worry about, right?

Incorrect, my friends. Two dangers that arise from cold weather can be extremely serious and they are hypothermia and frostbite.

I’ve never really gotten too cold while hunting and fishing except for one time. I was fishing for muskies in Northern Minnesota with Spence Petros and Jim Lindner. It was just above freezing with steady rain and brisk winds. All of us had gotten rain down the front of our waterproof rain gear and were shivering.

Thank goodness that Lindner had the brains to call it a day and head in. Petros and I were both too stubborn to admit we were too cold to keep going and throw in the white towel.

Hypothermia is a condition that occurs because your body is unable to maintain a normal body temperature because of exposure to severe cold. It doesn’t have to be 30 below, it can be cool. But, if you become wet, then hypothermia can set in. It comes on slowly. Of course, after a fall through the ice, it can set in over a few, scant minutes.

Hypothermia occurs when your body heat escapes through your clothing faster than your body can regenerate new body heat. The most important way to stave off the threat of hypothermia is by wearing layers of warm clothing to trap in the body heat.

Hypothermia occurs when the body’s temperature falls below 95 degrees from its normal average of 98.6 degrees. Usually, hypothermia’s onset is signaled by a deterioration of coordination or other motor or physical abilities. Often, a decreasing of mental acuity is symptomatic. Other symptoms include slow breathing, extreme tiredness, shivering, cold and pale skin and slurred speech. Hypothermia can lead to death.

Obviously, at the first sign of hypothermia, get out of the cold. If wet, get dry – fast! This is no time to try to be a hero, go get help. Someone with severe hypothermia is merely minutes away from falling into a coma.

Do not immerse the person in warm or hot water. They need to have warm compresses applied to their neck, chest and groin. The arms and legs should be left alone because pressure on them forces blood back to the heart and can be fatal. There are treatments for severe hypothermia that can only be administered at a hospital.

The Mayo Clinic suggests four things to minimize your possibility of hypothermia: Cover – wear a hat and mittens; Avoid activities that cause you to sweat a lot; Wear loose-fitting, layered clothing; Stay as dry as possible. Good advice!

Frostbite is skin damage and damage to the skin’s underlying tissues caused by extreme cold. Frostbite is exhibited when the exposed skin becomes hard, pale and cold. The skin lacks sensitivity when it is touched, although you may feel a dull throbbing. When the skin gets warmed again, it gets red and painful and you may feel tingling and burning. The face, hands, feet, nose and ears are the areas of the body where frostbite most commonly occurs.

Frostbite may cause permanent damage and if severe enough, frostbite can be cause for amputation of the affected area.

Frostbite’s first symptom is tingling and that is followed by numbness. If frostbite is suspected, get the victim to a warm place. Apply warm, damp washcloths to the afflicted area or submerse it in warm, not hot, water. If the frostbitten person has to go back out into the freezing temps, it may be better not to warm the area until they can be kept in the warmth permanently. Do not administer alcohol as a remedy for frostbite. Your best bet is to seek proper, professional medical attention.

The best way to keep from getting frostbitten is to keep your skin dry, wearing loose clothing including footwear, wearing mittens and keeping out of the cold for prolonged periods.

I have found that doctor’s latex surgical gloves, available at most drug stores, are an excellent preventative from getting you hands wet. These gloves are totally waterproof, unlike most winter gloves, even the ones that make that claim. They are light and non-restrictive and are a cheap insurance policy.

Use your heads when recreating outdoors in this frigid winter that keeps bating us up on a constant basis. Keep your ice fishing trips short and just go more often.

Northern Illinois – Dave Kranz from Dave’s Bait, Tackle and Taxidermy in Crystal Lake reports: “How can this weekend be February already? With no shortage of ice, it would be nice to experience some days in the twenties and thirties over the next few weeks. I have heard good reports on pan fishing small ponds and the backwaters of the Fox River. On February 8, both Lake in the Hills and Island Lake are having ice derbies. I hope they get a nice calm day. “Call 815-455-2040 for updated reports.

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