Frostbite: You Often Don't Even Realize You Have It
Frostbite is a type of cold emergency that afflicts body parts exposed to the cold. When body tissues freeze, it is called frostbite. This condition is serious because the water in between the body's cells are freezing and swelling causing the destruction of those cells. Severe cases of frostbite can result in the loss of fingers, hands, toes, and feet.
Prevention of Frostbite
- Dress properly and use wear layers of clothing made out of materials that trap air between the fibers e.g. wool.
- Keep vulnerable areas such as fingers and toes covered.
- Stay dry, as moisture, including that from sweat, may freeze if activity stops.
- Take regular breaks from being outside, and rest.
- Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated as this can help the body maintain its temperature. Hot drinks are preferred over cold ones. Avoid caffeine and alcohol which can hinder the body's heat-producing abilities.
Signs and Symptoms of Frostbite
Depending on the situation, frostbite may occur by itself or along with hypothermia which is the cooling of the whole body rather than just a specific part. The following are signs and symptoms of frostbite:
- Lack of feeling in the affected area i.e. numbness.
- Skin that appears waxy or cold to the touch.
- Skin that is discolored including flushed, white, yellow, or blue.
First Aid for Frostbite
- Cover the affected area.
- Don't rub the area and handle it very gently so as not to cause further damage.
- Warm body part slowly using body heat or by immersing it in water warmed to 105 degrees fahrenheit. Use a thermometer if possible to confirm the water temperature.
- Keep the frostbitten part in the water until it looks red and feels warm.
- Bandage the area with a dry, sterile dressing. If the area affected includes fingers or toes, place cotton or gauze between them.
- Avoid breaking any blisters.
- Seek medical help as soon as possible.