August 2, 2011
FrostbiteWhat is it?
Frostbite is caused by very cold temperatures which can destroy body tissue by freezing the tissues. The blood vessels to the area are damaged. If the exposed areas do not receive enough blood flow, permanent damage results. Getting treatment as soon as possible is very important.
Avoid long periods of staying out in the cold weather. Try to stay inside or stay well covered when the temperature is below freezing and the wind is blowing. Cold injury is more common when the temperature is less than 20 degrees outside.
Most winter weather reports give the windchill index. This number indicates the effects of both temperature and wind causing exposed skin to lose heat. It is this combined number (or index) that tells us the effect of the cold on the skin. The lower the windchill index, the greater the danger of frostbite to exposed skin.
Wear warm clothing on all parts of the body – including the face, head, hands and feet – when outside in cold weather. The most common areas to get frostbite are the fingers, toes and ears. Wearing a stocking hat is helpful in the very young, older age groups, and people with chronic illnesses such as diabetes.
If your fingers, toes, or skin hurt when exposed to the cold, this is the first sign of frostbite. Getting into a warm place as soon as possible is important to prevent injury.
Symptoms of cold injury are:
Treatment for early frostbite
- red or pale skin
- some swelling
- If you have the following symptoms, seek help IMMEDIATELY: numbness, very pale skin, blisters, pain, severe swelling, black scabs.
Treatment for severe frostbite
- Get into a warm sheltered area as soon as possible.
- Rest and elevate the affected area to prevent swelling.
- Remove all tight clothing.
- Avoid pressure or friction on the frostbitten area. DO NOT RUB!
- Treat pain with medication such as Tylenol or aspirin.
- Soak affected area in lukewarm water until the pain is gone. If the pain continues or if you have further questions, call your doctor for further information.
This information is provided only as an informational resource for consumers. For advice regarding a specific medical condition, please consult your personal physician.
- Get out of the cold as soon as possible.
- Protect the area by avoiding all pressure.
- SEEK MEDICAL HELP AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
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