If you live in unforgiving, extreme cold weather, you are probably familiar with the skin condition known as frostbite. Learn the correct steps for first aid treatment, and what you should avoid doing to reduce the risk of further complications.
When a body part is frostbitten, it indicates that the skin and the tissues directly beneath the affected area have been frozen. Typically, smaller and more exposed appendages of the body are more prone to frostbite due to the distance from the core of the body. For example, appendages are more likely to get frostbite because it is harder for the body to adequately deliver heat to those areas. Sometimes, frostbite can happen when touching an extremely freezing surface, such as metals in frozen weather.
Frostbite can cause permanent nerve and tissue damage if proper medical treatment does not take place immediately. In turn, if the damaged nerves and tissues are not taken care of, it can lead to infections and more serious necrotic medical conditions that may need amputation. Common affected areas include: nose, chin, cheeks, ears, fingers and toes.
The first stage of frostbite is commonly referred to as frost nip. While it is mostly characterized by skin irritation due to cold, no permanent damage has happened yet. Often times, the skin may feel so numb that you may not realize you have gotten frostbite until someone else points it out. If you feel like you’re experiencing symptoms or signs of frost nip, be sure to take steps to resolve the problem immediately to prevent it from turning into frostbite.
Signs that may indicate that you have frost nip or frostbite include:
Sometimes, frostbite happens in conjunction with, or is an indicator of hypothermia, a condition characterized by the body losing heat faster than generating heat. Hypothermia is more medically urgent than frostbite, as it can be life-threatening, so be sure to resolve it first.
While you are waiting for medical treatment, here are a few things you can do to relieve the potential damage of frostbite:
If frostbite is left untreated, or dealt with improperly, it may result in further medical conditions. They include, but are not limited to:
Perhaps the most effective way to prevent frostbite is to keep all body parts, especially vulnerable areas, warm at all times. Here are some tips you can employ to prevent future cases of frostbite: