There are lots of 'common-sense' ways to stay warm in the cold weather, after all, it's Montana, right?

However, according to the National Weather Service, the cold snap heading to the Missoula area next week could pose real dangers to anyone who has to spend time outside in temperatures that could dip to minus 20 or even colder.

Dr. Kristen Anderson at Missoula's Community Medical Center starts with the basics, dress in layers and limit your exposure to the frigid temperatures.

"We always do what we do in Montana, and that's hope for the best, but prepare for the worst," Dr. Anderson said. "Make sure that you have proper clothing, and if you're going out, that you're doing it for very short periods. If I have a recommendation for folks going outside, it's to follow instructions and heed warnings you hear on the media. I know sometimes people think they can just 'tough it out' , but with this kind of cold it's not just 'mind over matter', so follow the rules."

Anderson describes the two most common medical issues associated with extended exposure to the cold, hypothermia and frostbite.

"Hypothermia is something that happens when your body is no longer able to maintain your core temperature," she said. "Something you want to keep in mind is that if you spend too much time outside in the cold you're going to start to get confused, and you won't be able to do the things you're normally able to do, and so you need to get some help and get into a warming center. We really worry about the vulnerable populations, such as children and the elderly, and how important it is to make sure they're safe and warm."

"Frostbite can happen when you spend too much time in the cold, and once again, your body is no longer able to maintain it's core temperature, and the extremities are the first to be affected, the hands, the feet and the face," she said. "Sometimes people think drinking alcohol will keep them warm, when exactly the opposite is true. Also, smoking can increase your risk of frostbite, and other injuries to your hands. This is where you really want to make sure you have adequate clothing and insulation. If  you're out and about and things get wet, it's so important to immediately stop and put on dry clothing and then go back outside, don't just try to tough it out."

Anderson said it's also important for residents to look out for their elderly neighbors during a cold snap to make sure that have proper heat, food and water.

The cold snap is forecast to last through the first week of the new year.

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