With temperatures hovering near zero with -20 wind chill factors, the Missoula City County Health Department has advice on how to protect children and the elderly from the bitter cold.

Director of Health Promotion Cindy Hotchkiss begins by describing the onset of hypothermia.

"You start losing the feeling in your fingers and toes, and you begin to feel fatigued," Hotchkiss said. "In some severe cases you may even begin to lose your mental faculties, so it's very important to pay attention to your body and go inside to get warm as quickly as possible."

Hotchkiss went on to describe the effects of frostbite.

"Like hypothermia, frostbite begins with loss of feeling in your fingers and toes," she said. "It can also happen when your hands or feet become wet and you have continued exposure to bitter cold. More often that not, it's your fingers and toes that will be affected first, and in some cases, your nose may also be affected. The tips of your fingers may turn white, then purple. Eventually, the skin may turn black and peel off. Again, we want to pay close attention, and get out of the cold as quickly as possible."

Hotchkiss said it's very important that at-risk populations such as children and the elderly keep their skin covered in layers and to stay out of the cold.

Director of Health Promotion Cindy Hotchkiss