It’s more than chills and chattering teeth. Frostbite can lead to severe and permanent damage to areas of the body that gets the bitter cold. The good news is that you can stop it by dressing up warmly, drinking plenty of water.
In very cold temperatures, or if a human has been exposed to freezing conditions for a longer time, blood flow to some areas of the body can decline to dangerously low levels. Those body parts include fingertips, toes, hands, and legs. When parts of the body may not get enough oxygen-rich blood, the cells and tissues can die.
At a freezing point, 32 degrees Fahrenheit (oF) or zero degrees Celcius (ºC), a person may begin to feel pain after just a few seconds. This pain is probably due to frostnip, which refers to the early stages of Frostbite. Wet weather can make it worse.
When temperatures fall below zero, the blood vessels on the surface of any exposed skin tend to narrow in an attempt to maintain heat in the center of the body.
Tiny blood clots can develop as circulation decreases. The tissues and fluids in the affected area may freeze, causing soft tissue to die. Gangrene could result in an amputation possibly.
Physical damage from Frostbite can be serious and long-lasting. Frostbite may affect any part of the body but usually happens in the hands, ears, legs, nose, and lips.
Who’s at risk for Frostbite?
When exposed to cold temperatures in any of the following conditions, you are more likely to suffer from Frostbite if:
- You are not well dressed in cold conditions.
- The body is weak due to fatigue, starvation, dehydration, physical labor, illness.
- You smoke. Smoking narrows your blood vessels and slows down your circulation, causing your Frostbite to develop quicker.
- You suffer from medical problems such as diabetes, depression, lung disease, or peripheral vascular disease.
- You take beta-blocker medications.
Young children and older people are even more likely to suffer from Frostbite.
What Are the Symptoms of Frostbite?
Many cases of Frostbite include the following symptoms:
- The skin feels prickly or numb.
- The face is discoloured (red, white, gray, or yellow)
- The pain surrounding the exposed area
Frostbite is serious when the following symptoms appear:
- The blisters on the skin;
- The skin is turning black.
- The joints and muscles are stiff or not working;
Regardless of the severity of Frostbite, if you have Frostbite and any of the following, seek medical treatment:
- In the frostbitten area, you have swelling, redness, or discharge.
Those who spend a lot of time outside in cold weather are in danger of Frostbite. Small children, older people, and others who are homeless are especially vulnerable.
Factors that raise the chances of Frostbite include:
- Medical conditions such as exhaustion, dehydration, circulatory issues, asthma, hunger, and malnutrition
- Mental disorder, panic, or anxiety, as they may affect decision-making at freezing temperatures.
- Cigarette, drink, or drug misuse
- Certain medications, such as beta-blockers, due to their effects on blood supply.
- Previous Frostbite injuries
- Age, because babies and older people have more difficulty in retaining body heat
- Wearing constrictive clothes or footwear
- Wet and windy weather exposure
- High altitude due to low temperatures and low levels of oxygen
People who have a disease that affects the blood vessels and circulation should take special precautions to protect themselves from Frostbite.
How Is Frostbite Treated?
Do the following for immediate first-aid treatment:
- Search for shelter from the cold.
- By placing them under your arms, warm your hands.
- If necessary, go indoors and remove wet clothes and jewelry.
- Once inside, put your hands and legs in warm water and cover the rest of your body with a blanket.
- Avoid heat sources, such as candles, fire, or heating pads. They can burn frostbitten skin.
- If you think you are dehydrated, drink warm drinks.
- Visit the doctor as soon as possible.
How to avoid Frostbite?
1. Dress for Excess
The only sure way to avoid Frostbite is to minimize the amount of time you spend outside in extremely cold. But if you’re going to spend time outdoors, dressing right is a must.
2. Layer up
You’re not after the snowman looking. Play it lose, light, and relaxed. Flowy layers keep the air warm, close to the body. Next to the skin, wear synthetic cloth. Undergarments that take moisture out of the body are the best. Cover those with a layer of fleece and wool. It’s going to help keep the body warm.
Top the outerwear layers away from wind and water. Down jackets and ski coats are a good choice.
3. Tuck in your toes
You’re not going to have to wear one – but two – pairs of socks. Like your clothes, the pair below is supposed to wick moisture out of your skin. Then pull a pair of wool or wool-blend. Foot heaters can work well, too. Just make sure they’re not too heavy underneath your boots; tightness hampers the flow of blood.
Make sure your footwear is waterproof and your ankles are covered. You don’t want to see in the snow and the dampness.
You have a better risk of getting Frostbite if your clothing and shoes get soaked. Made sure the layers are dry.
4. Don’t forget about your fingers
Mittens are the best bet to cover your Frostbite fingers. If you like gloves, pick a cozy pair of gloves and try the moisturizing gloves underneath.
5. Heading out
A hat or headband made of fleece, thick wool, or windproof cloth is your best choice. Ensured your ears are covered. If the wind is severe, add a face mask or scarf. It’s going to protect your face and nose. It’s going to warm the air you breathe in, too.
6. H2O to go
Drink a lot of water. At least get a whole glass down and have a good meal before you venture out. Avoid alcohol. It helps you lose the heat quicker. Would you like a sweet treat to bump up the heat of your body? A mug of hot chocolate might have hit the spot.
7. Mind the climate
Trust your weather forecast, and take care of the windshield readings. If it’s super cold and windy, Frostbite will attack exposed skin in a matter of minutes. Take emergency supplies along in case you can’t drive back as soon as you’re planning. Include extra warm clothes.
8. Check in with your friends
It’s best to be prepared, whether you think you’re going to need help or not. Before you head out, let people know where you’re going and when you’re going to be back. If you’re going to be remote, tell them which path you’re going to take.
9. Keep It Moving
Stay in motion when you out, keep the blood pressure up, and keeps you warm. Be careful you don’t overdo it, though. You’re going to use your energy in the cold.
The Bottom Line
If you have symptoms of Frostbite, try to get the feeling back to the body gradually. Never rub or immerse your hands or feet directly in hot water. Instead, use warm water or a warm washcloth. If you don’t feel the sensation of returning to your body, or if your skin appears to turn gray, go to the emergency department immediately.