WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- We are facing temperatures as low as the single digits in the Washington metro area, and this weather is simply more than our bodies can handle.

With the sub-freezing temps and the added wind chill factorexposure can be harmful. But most people don't realize how quickly your body can be compromised.

You can start getting frostbite within minutes. The fluid inside your cells will start to crystallize and form ice crystals. This causes damage to your tissues. Symptoms include shivering, skin color changes, and shivering.

Dr. Gigi El-Bayoumi ofGeorge Washington Medical Faculty Associates says, "The next phase after shivering is that you could stop shivering. you can actually have neurologic complaints, you can get confused, you can even stumble."

If you see someone with these conditions seek emergency medical attention immediately.

Your ears, nose, and hands are the most vulnerable to frostbite. But, in addition to hats and gloves you may want to wear goggles or a ski mask because your eyes can also be adversely affected in these frigid conditions.

Dr. Edward Kondrot of theHealingthe Eye Wellness Center says, "Your eyelids are a very thin tissue that can develop frostbite very quickly."

If your eyelids start to stiffen, Dr. Kondrot says that can lead to a larger problem, freezing of the cornea.

Dr. Kondrot says, "The cornea is 90 percent water and so the cornea can freeze and that can cause extensive damage to the eye."

"Normally the cornea will thaw and regenerate by itself, but if the freeze is deeper then it may require extensive surgery and even a corneal transplant," adds Dr. Kondrot.

Frequent blinking is a natural protectant for the eye. Our tears have protective elements, so blinking protects the cornea from cold weather exposure.

Don't forget hypothermia, thisis a condition that mostpeople don't realize they are suffering from until it's too late. Symptomsfor hypothermia include shivering, confusion, mumbling, anddrowsiness. So if you notice yourself or others with thosesymptoms, get inside and seek medical attention.

According tothe Centers for Disease Control, nearly 1,300peoplein the US die each year from overexposure and hypothermia.

Read or Share this story: