It was bitterly cold here earlier this week. When it is that cold, the frostbite warnings are broadcast as part of the weather forecast. Since it in only January, extreme cold can easily happen again.
Frostbite is very real. Frostbite is when a portion of your skin freezes due to extreme temperatures. There are three kinds of frostbite depending upon how long your skin was exposed. Frostnip is the least damaging form of frostbite. The next level is superficial frostbite and then the final is deep frostbite.
Are some people more susceptible to getting frostbite?
Yes, people who take medicines called beta blockers, smokers, diabetics, and those with peripheral vascular disease are more susceptible to getting frostbite and need to be very careful in the cold.
Are some areas of the body more likely to get frostbite?
Yes, your extremities will be more likely to get frostbite. Your hands, fingers, feet, toes, ears and nose are the first areas of the body to usually suffer from frostbite.
How can I tell if I have frostbite?
It may be hard to tell at first that you have frostbite because the affected area will be numb. When you start to warm up, you might have that “pins and needles” feeling in the area or it may hurt. The area can also become numb and the skin become hard and pale.
What do I do if I think that I have frostbite?
You should seek medical attention immediately. If for some reason that is not possible, there are some steps you can take until you can get to the doctor or emergency room. First of all, do not thaw the area if you think it will refreeze. That will actually make it worse. Try and warm the area slowly. You can soak it in warm but not HOT water. Also, if your toes or fingers are affected, separate them and put gauze around each toe (or finger) separately. If you have any jewelry or restrictive clothing, remove the jewelry and remove or loosen the clothing. You don’t want any possible blood flow obstructions.
Do I really need to go to the doctor?
YES! Severe frostbite can cause blisters, gangrene, and damage to muscles, nerves, and even bone. Please seek medical attention immediately.
How can I avoid frostbite?
The easy answer is do not go outside when it is really cold. That is not possible for most of us. The first thing is to wear lots of layers and keep as warm as possible without wearing clothes that are restricting. For example, if you boots are tight then that will reduce blood flow when you need the circulation. Wear warm mittens, a hat, and a scarf over your face. If you have to go out, don’t stay outside long. Take breaks frequently to get out of the extreme cold.