Frostbite is a rapid injury that occurs when the air temperature is below freezing. While these injuries are often minor, frostbite can progress to more severe and permanent injuries if left untreated. Frostbite is easier to treat in its early stages, so keep an eye on its early symptoms closely. Learn how to recognize these early symptoms to prevent yourself and others from experiencing the painful and dangerous frostbite.
Beware of the Early Symptoms of Frostbite
Monitor all exposed skin. The initial symptoms of frostbite will appear on your skin, usually in the form of redness that is painful and uncomfortable.
Watch for white or yellowish-gray skin that is numb, or feels unusually stiff or waxy.
In severe cases, the skin may turn blue, mottled or blotchy.
Be aware that frostbite is often not noticed by the sufferer. Therefore, monitor all the skin that is exposed to yourself and others when outside in cold weather.
Many people “bear” the symptoms of frostbite because it doesn’t seem serious at first.
Check the condition with a friend or relative every 10-20 minutes orally or visually.
Don’t ignore itching or burning that won’t go away. While these sensations may seem trivial, they are actually both signs of frostbite. Be aware of any unusual physical sensations.
In particular, pay attention to the soft prickling sensation that continues to numb. Again, this indicates frostbite.
A flush and a rush of blood to the extremities indicate that your body is trying to fight frostbite, but is failing to keep your extremities warm enough.
Recognize the early signs of frostbite. There are several signs that can indicate a bout of frostbite is coming before it gets worse. Mild frostbite can cause skin damage while severe frostbite can permanently damage nerves and tissues under the skin.
Recognize the symptoms of frostbite as soon as possible to prevent permanent damage from frostbite.
In particular, watch for the development of redness of the skin, and skin that feels cold to the touch or irritated.
Watch out for the frostnip . Frostnip , which is a bleaching and numbing of the skin, is symptomatic and precedes the dangerous level of frostbite.
Frostnip usually occurs on the ears, nose, cheeks, fingers and toes.
Although harmless, frostnip indicates that the skin and tissues of the sufferer have begun to be affected by the weather, and the sufferer must return to a warm environment.
Recognizing and Treating Colds
Pay close attention to the symptoms or worsening of frostbite. Mild frostbite can be characterized by turning the skin red to white and pale. Although the skin feels soft, ice crystals begin to form inside the skin. You may notice blisters on the skin as the frostbite worsens.
On the other hand, the skin begins to feel warm. This is actually a serious symptom that indicates the sufferer is starting to experience a severe case of frostbite.
Watch out for worsening beyond mild frostbite as it means permanent damage has already begun.
Loss of pain or discomfort is the development of a very serious injury.
Darkening of the skin and hardening of the tissue indicates permanent damage to the injured skin and some of the underlying tissue.
Treat frostbite as soon as possible. The article How to Treat Frostbite provides similar detail in determining the severity of frostbite, including specific steps to safely rewarm the area and how to seek professional help.
Take the patient out of the cold.
Ideally, go to the hospital to be treated by a professional doctor.
Gently rewarm the injured area. Do not expose the injured area that has been rewarmed to cold weather. Skin, nerves, and body tissues will be damaged if they continue to be exposed to extreme temperature changes repeatedly.
The safest way to warm finger frostbite, if still outdoors, is with body heat. For example, place frostbite on your armpit to prevent exposure to cold air.
Frostbite can be rewarmed with warm water, only if frostbite can be ensured not to be re-exposed to cold air.
If possible, warm the frostbite area as soon as possible, because the larger the frostbite area, the more permanent damage it will cause.
Warm the frostbite area with warm water. Use water that is warm to the touch, approx. 40.5°C.
Give analgesics to people with frostbite, including ibuprofen , acetaminophen, and aspirin.
If you are forced to delay rewarming the frostbite area, clean, dry, and protect the frostbite area (ideally, using a sterile compress).
Know what to do when you recognize frostbite. While you are determining the presence of frostbite on the skin, there are several preventative steps you can take to reduce the risk of damage to the frostbite area.,
Do not use artificial heat sources (such as heating pads or lamps, furnaces or fireplaces, or radiators) to warm a body with frostbite. The frostbite area is numbed so it burns easily.
Do not walk with a foot or toe that has frostbite. Unless you really have to get out of the cold, don’t risk walking with frostbite.
Do not touch the frostbite area. Massaging the area affected by frostbite will only add to the damage.
Do not rub snow on the frostbite area. While it’s tempting for people with frostbite to rub snow on the frostbite area to reduce discomfort, don’t let it go. Exposure to freezing temperatures will exacerbate the damage.
Do not pop any blisters that appear in the frostbite area to prevent infection.
Watch people with frostbite for hypothermia. Since hypothermia is another serious medical condition caused by exposure to extreme cold, look for symptoms of hypothermia in people with frostbite.
Seek immediate medical attention if it appears that someone is hypothermic.
Signs and symptoms of hypothermia include intense shaking, slurred speech, and drowsiness or loss of coordination.
Be aware that there may be a burning sensation and swelling. Even though it has been weeks since exposure to cold temperatures, sufferers can still show signs of frostbite.
A black crust and scab may appear after exposure.
Blisters, even after the injured area has been rewarmed, can also appear after recovery.
If these symptoms appear, don’t assume they will just go away. Seek medical help immediately.
Prepare yourself for cold weather. Preventive measures are much more effective at avoiding frostbite. Learn about the unfamiliar environment you’ll be living in to make sure you’re as prepared as possible.
Frostbite can occur within minutes at temperatures below freezing, and at temperatures above freezing, it can occur during strong winds, wet conditions, or at high altitudes.
Prepare your home and car with winter gear, including warm clothes
Act appropriately and stay alert. Your behavior and attention to the environment will go a long way in avoiding frostbite.
Don’t smoke or drink alcohol or caffeine in cold weather, as they increase your susceptibility to the weather.
Don’t leave your body in one position for a long time
Recognize that 90% frostbite injuries occur to the hands and feet. Adjust your clothing so that it covers your skin and wear boots and gloves.
Keep your head and ears protected during cold weather. About 30% of body heat is lost through the head.
Keep body and clothes dry. Wet clothes will accelerate heat loss
Don’t go out in the cold right away after taking a shower. Make sure your skin and hair are completely dry before leaving the room.
Wear appropriate clothing in cold weather. In addition to cold weather, make sure to protect yourself from wind and humidity. Wear warm clothing, especially fleece , polypropylene , and wool. Also, make sure you wear several layers of clothing when exposed to cold weather, especially for long periods.,
Wear clothes that draw moisture away from the body in the first layer. Wear thermal underwear, base layers, cotton socks, and liner gloves .
Stay away from tight clothing that hinders or slows blood circulation.
Especially in cold weather, wear two pairs of socks.
Wear loose clothing in the second layer to maintain body temperature. The loose layer will help retain air to provide insulation to the body. Choose clothes that don’t hold moisture. Heavy trousers and a long-sleeved sweater are good choices.
Wear clothes that are tightly sewn and moisture-resistant in the outer layers to ward off the elements. Jackets, hats, scarves, mittens (gloves that only have two groups of toes), and boots should be worn in cold weather.
Mittens are better than regular gloves because they reduce the surface area that can be exposed to cold. Wear normal gloves under the mittens if you need to remove the mittens .
Bring extra clothing if you know you will be outside for a long time, especially when climbing mountains or other environments away from shelter. If your clothes get wet, replace them with dry clothes.
Be aware of risk factors that can increase the chance of frostbite. Knowing who is more prone to frostbite will help you recognize the symptoms before they become serious. Factors that increase the risk of injury from exposure to weather such as frostbite include:
Young children and the elderly. Supervise young children and the elderly closely.
Drunk. Drunk people should not be outside.
Fatigue, hunger, malnutrition and dehydration.
Homeless, or people who do not have access to shelter.
Other severe injuries, including broken skin.
Have had frostbite.
Depression. Several mental health issues can increase the risk of frostbite, as people who are hopeless and unable to listen to their bodies well tend to have a hard time monitoring their own body temperature and well-being.
Heart disease or peripheral artery disease or poor blood circulation. People who have medical conditions that affect the daily performance of the blood vessels and heart in general have a high enough risk.
Similarly, people with diabetes or hypothyroidism, and people taking beta-blockers also need to be wary of cold weather.