Smokers risk frostbite

Published on Apr 19, 2004 08:22 PM IST

Smokers are very susceptible because their blood vessels don't expand fast enough.

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PTI | ByReuters, Washington

Smokers, who already risk cancer and heart disease, are more susceptible than others to frostbite because their blood vessels do not expand fast enough to warm chilled fingers and toes, researchers said on Sunday.

The nicotine in cigarettes seems to be to blame, slowing the body's normal responses to cold, the team at Yale University in Connecticut found.

Dr. Kichang Lee and colleagues immersed the hands of smokers and nonsmokers in water at 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celcius) for 40 minutes.

The blood vessels of the smokers were slower and less effective than those of non-smokers at cold-induced vasodilation -- a biological response in which blood vessels expand in response to cold.

After coming out of the cold water, the smokers' skin warmed up more slowly than that of non-tobacco users, Lee told a meeting of the American Physiological Society at a joint conference in Washington called Experimental Biology 2004.

The effect held even when the smokers avoided cigarettes for 16 hours, Lee, now at Harvard University, said.

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