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New York Weather: With Polar Vortex Coming, Here's What You Need To Know To Stay Safe In The Cold

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – With bitterly cold temperatures expected to blanket the area, it's best to just stay indoors if possible. Even a short time outside can be risky with the frigid wind chills coming.

CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez explains how to avoid trouble.

In nasty cold weather, we usually think of frostbite and hypothermia.

MORE: Tri-State Officials Brace For Incoming Wintry Mix, Polar Vortex Combo

Both are pretty rare in urban and suburban areas, other than in the homeless or people under the influence of alcohol or drugs who pass out or may not feel the cold.

Whether it's avoiding wind chill, frostbite, or frost nip, the key is not to have exposed skin.

That's where you can lose lots of body heat and where skin can start to freeze.

"The ears and nose are most vulnerable, and cheeks as well. If you see some discoloration and can't feel your skin, get inside to somewhere warm," Dr. Kaushal Shah of Mount Sinai Hospital warns.

Dr. Shah, the attending physician in the emergency department at Mount Sinai, told CBS2 he doesn't see many frostbite cases but he does hear from folks complaining about painful fingers and toes.

"They're the most vulnerable because they get the least blood flow."

To keep fingers warmest, go for mittens over gloves. There's less surface to lose heat from and your fingers will keep each other warm.

Knit gloves or mittens can let wind and water in - both enemies of warmth – so go with leather or synthetic barriers on the outside.

As for feet, no cotton. Socks made of wool wick moisture away and will insulate even when wet. But don't cram fat socks into tight shoes; that stops blood flow that keeps toes warm.

Hi-tech infrared photography can tell you what you probably already know - you lose a lot of heat from your head and neck during winter. Hats and scarves keep your core temperature up.

"To keep your core warm, wear multiple layers," Dr. Shah added.

Don't try to warm up fingers and toes in hot water. You won't feel the temperature very well and could easily get burned.

Use lukewarm water and don't rub areas that have gotten gray or white. You can really damage frozen skin that way.

The best thing to do is just get inside where it's warm.

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