How To Treat Frostbite

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Overview Of Frostbites

  • Frostbite occurs when the skin is damaged due to extreme cold.
  • At -15C or below, the veins and blood vessels tighten to sustain body heat.
  • When the tissues continue to constrict, tissue damage takes place.
  • Frostbite generally damages tissues which are far from the heart.
  • It also takes place in tissues that are most open to the cold.
    Frostbite occurs when the skin is damaged due to extreme cold

    Frostbite occurs when the skin is damaged due to extreme cold

  • The tissues that are generally affected by frostbite are:
    a. Fingers 
    b. Toes
    c. Nose
    d. Ears
  • Immediate medical care or first aid must be administered to avoid permanent injury to the tissues.

Risk Factors Related To Frostbite

  • Use of beta-blockers.
  • Peripheral neuropathy.
  • Diabetes.

Symptoms Of Frostbite

  • The skin will start to change color.
  • The skin will start to become loose.
  • The casualty will experience a burning or tingling feeling.
  • The casualty will start to become partially or completely numb.

In serious cases,

  • The frostbite might turn into gangrene which will result in amputation.

Treatment Of Frostbites

Get medical assistance as quick as possible. In the meantime

  • Cover the injured region using fresh material or clothing.

 

If no medical assistance is available:

  • Transfer the casualty to a place that is warm.
  • Hypothermia is dangerous and must be treated first. Insulate the casualty very well.
  • Ensure that the area where the frostbite occurred is in warm water (not hot water).
  • This must be completed until the burning or tingling sensation is gone.

Steps to Avoid With Frostbites

  • Do not scrub or rub the affected region.
  • Don’t apply treatment if a second round of cold exposure is expected.
  • If treatment is applied directly after cold exposure this can cause severe damage to the tissues.

Prevention Of Frostbites

  • Avoid
    a. Weather that is extremely cold
    b. Clothing that is wet
    c. A wind that is extremely cold
  • Wear more than one layer of clothing during cold weather.
  • Put on winter accessories such as:
    a. Mittens; avoid gloves as they not as good in preserving warmth
    b. Put on two pairs of socks during extremely cold weather
    c. Cover your ears well by wearing a scarf or hat
  • Make sure you get sufficient food and rest.
  • Stay away from alcohol directly before exposure to cold.

Related Video On Frostbites

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  • All cprlevelc.ca content is reviewed by a medical professional and / sourced to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

  • We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable websites, academic research institutions and medical articles.

  • If you feel that any of our content is inaccurate, out-of-date, or otherwise questionable, please contact us through our contact us page.