Three FAQs About Frostbite

Health & Medical Blog

Many parts of the country are facing frigid temperatures this winter, and with those cold temperatures comes many health hazards. Many cold-weather injuries happen when people slip and fall on the ice. These types of accidents can result in concussions, broken bones, elbow fractures, and sprains. One more cold-weather injury that is very serious is frostbite.

In order to help you better understand this type of injury, here are the answers to three frequently asked questions about frostbite.

What Is Frostbite?

When the skin and underlying tissue freezes, frostbite occurs. It usually occurs on skin that is exposed to very cold temperatures, but it can also happen even when the skin is covered, depending on how cold it is.

Some of the most common places on the body frostbite occurs include:

  • Fingers
  • Toes
  • Nose
  • Ears
  • Cheeks
  • Chin

You know you have frostbite when the cold skin starts turning red and then becomes numb and hard. After turning hard, the skin appears pale-looking. Frostbite is serious, and it can cause permanent damage to the skin.

In some of the worst cases of frostbite, blood flow can become disrupted, resulting in a condition called gangrene. If this occurs, an amputation may be necessary.

How Is Frostbite Treated?

If you suspect you have frostbite and aren't sure how to treat it at home, you should visit a local urgent care center. The first thing a doctor will do is rewarm the affected area with warm water. Once the skin becomes red or purple, you will be advised to move the affected area, which will improve circulation.

Since the process of rewarming your skin can be painful, you may be given pain medication in to keep you comfortable. After the skin thaws, the doctor will wrap the affected area with sterile bandages. If after several weeks, the affected skin and tissue does not heal, the doctor may have to remove the dead tissue.

How Frostbite Be Prevented?

Since frostbite usually occurs in subzero temperatures when it's windy, the best way to prevent frostbite is to stay indoors when there is a windchill warning in effect. If the windchill temperature is -19 degrees F., frostbite can occur within 30 minutes. When the windchill temperature is -35 degrees F., frostbite can happen in just 10 minutes.

If you do have to go outside, even if it's just for a few minutes, make sure that you are wearing all the appropriate winter clothing and that your skin is not exposed.


31 January 2019

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