(ABC News) - Bitter cold has gripped the country from Minnesota to New York, and it's not going away anytime soon. More arctic air is on the way for the Midwest and the Northeast for the holiday weekend.
The coldest night is expected to be New Year’s Eve, when wind chills are expected to drop to as low as minus 55 degrees in the northern Plains and minus 20 to minus 30 degrees in the Northeast.
As the ball drops in New York City's Times Square on Sunday night at midnight, the temperature is forecast to be 11 degrees, with a wind chill of minus 4. If this happens, it would tie the second-coldest temperature ever recorded during the ball drop, which occurred in 1962.
How to stay safe outside
Those with prolonged exposure, like people standing outside in Times Square waiting for the ball to drop, or those not dressed appropriately for the weather are in danger of frostbite and hypothermia, National Weather Service meteorologist Jay Engle told ABC News.
Frostbite results in the loss of feeling and color in affected areas -- usually the nose, ears, cheeks, fingers, toes or chin, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Frostbite could potentially cause permanent damage and, in severe cases, can lead to amputation, the CDC said.
Someone suffering from frostbite can be unaware of it until it's pointed out by another person because the frozen tissues are numb, the CDC said. These can be signs of frostbite: numbness; white or grayish-yellow skin; or skin that feels unusually firm or waxy.
Dr. Randall Wexler, professor of family medicine at Ohio State University, warned, “Don’t rub your hands -- if you have frost-nip or frostbite, rubbing actually causes tissue damage."
If you think you are developing frostbite, “Keep the area covered if you can ... because if you have frostbite on your hand and you pull off your glove, you may cause tissue damage," Wexler said.
"That’s also when you want to start trying to raise your core body temperature -- get rid of wet clothes, put on clothes that are warm and dry," Wexler said.
There's also hypothermia -- or abnormally low body temperature -- which can impact the brain, "making the victim unable to think clearly or move well," the CDC said. "This makes hypothermia especially dangerous, because a person may not know that it’s happening and won’t be able to do anything about it."
Warning signs for adults are shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness. Warning signs for infants are bright red or cold skin and very low energy, the CDC said.
Engle recommends to “dress in three or more layers. One big thick winter coat tends not to do the trick. You have to have a thick sweater underneath and then a lighter jacket on top of that and then your winter coat.
"People really should keep their heads covered because that’s where majority of heat gets lost," Engle added.
Wexler said you want to stay moving because that generates heat.
But Wexler added that you should avoid sweating. "If you are overheated and start to sweat, that lowers your body temperature, and makes you more susceptible to cold injury," he said. "You want to be able to adjust your layers, zip and unzip.
"In crowded places like Times Square, there’s also the so-called penguin effect -- you got all these people crammed in there," Wexler added. "People in the center will have more warmth than people in the periphery. That’s obviously something people can’t control. You want to be able to adjust by wearing layers. You can also wear wicking clothing that can help if you do perspire."
Wexler also recommended staying hydrated because "dehydration can help promote cold injury.”
Wexler also gave advice on who should be especially careful in the cold.
“The young and the elderly, because their ability to maintain core body temperature is harder than mid-age and younger adults," he said. "Kids, especially babies, lose a disproportionate amount of heat from their head -- that’s why you want to have a hat on their head when you’re out there. Older people are more at risk simply because changes that occur as we get older from fat and muscle mass, but also because it is more difficult to regulate our core body temperature as we get older."
It's also more difficult to maintain your core temperature if you are diabetic or taking decongestant antihistamines or certain blood pressure medications, Wexler said.
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