How Can I Prevent Frostbite?

January 4, 2022

Frostbite is defined as when exposed to freezing temperatures that damage your skin and the underlying tissues. When you notice temperature dips below freezing, you must protect your skin from health risks due to cold weather.

Frostbite usually occurs when the skin, and sometimes the tissues underneath the skin, freezes due to prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. Frostbite can cause severe and occasionally permanent damage depending on how long and frozen the tissues are.

AFC Urgent Care Hillsdale can treat the early stages of frostbite. Any further stages should be treated in the Emergency Room. For all urgent health-related concerns, visit our urgent care center today. 

Symptoms of Frostbite:

During the cold weather, the skin uncovered may get red or sore. This case is called frostnip, and it’s an early stage or warning sign of frostbite. If this occurs, look for a warm shelter immediately.

Signs of frostbite depend mainly on how intense it goes into the body. There are three stages of frostbite; the early stage affects the outer layer of the skin, while more advanced stages can go deep into the muscles and bones.

Early frostbite symptoms:

  • It may burn, itch, sting, or feel like “needles and pins.”
  • The skin turns a pale white or yellow

Intermediate frostbite symptoms:

  • Skin looks shiny or waxy
  • Skin becomes hard
  • The skin thaws – from blisters filled with fluid or blood

Advanced stage frostbite symptoms:

  • Skin darkens immediately, turning blue and then later turning black
  • Skin becomes very hard and cold to the touch

Some people become unaware they have frostbite because as it gets worse, one can no longer feel the affected area anymore. The more reason you need to look out for changes in skin color.

Ways to Prevent Frostbite:

To prevent frostbite and stay warm, follow these tips:

1. Dress loosely and layer your clothing: Dressing tightly increases your risk of frostbite. Instead, pick loose layers of clothing that make body heat circulate.

Layer your clothing this way:

  • The first layer should be of a fabric that helps keep you dry
  • The second piece of clothing goes on top of the first and should be made of wool or fleece to serve as an insulator
  • The last piece of clothing should be worn on top of the previous two and should be waterproof and windproof.

2. Ensure your hat covers your ears and head: Get yourself a fleece or wool hat with ear flaps to help keep your ears protected and warm.

3. Pick insulating gloves or mittens: Make sure you do not take them off to access your smartphone. If texting is important and necessary, choose a pair of gloves with textured fingertips that enable you to swipe.

4. Don’t compromise on socks or shoes: Your feet are more likely to be exposed to frostbite. Layer a pair of socks made of wool over another pair that resists moisture, and then wear warm, waterproof boots that protect and cover your ankles.

5. Unzip for at least a few minutes if you sweat: Wet clothing, either due to snow or sweating, makes you very vulnerable to frostbite. Ensure snow can’t get into your winter outfits.

Treating Early Frostbite:

First, look for a warm spot. Do not rub your skin, as this can cause damage if it’s frozen. Do not put cold feet or hands into a tub of hot water. This could also cause damage. There is every possibility you may not feel if the water is too hot if your skin is numb.

Instead, soak the affected feet and hands in the warm water of temperatures 104 F to 107 F, or put a washcloth into warm water and place it on the affected areas that can’t be immersed, like ears and nose, at least for 30 minutes.

That way, your skin should begin to heal fast. It may become red as it thaws. Also, you may feel a prickling sensation or painful stinging, like “needles and pins.”

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