Brr…It’s Cold Out There—Frostbite Part 2

Last month we discussed frostnip and frostbite—what it is and isn’t, and what to do if you fear you might have it. With January being the coldest month in Minnesota, let’s delve into Part 2 and discuss prevention methods and the symptoms of frostbite more in-depth.

Symptoms

The severity of your symptoms will depend upon the stage of cold damage: frostnip, superficial frostbite, or deep frostbite. At first, you’ll notice cold, prickling skin. Numbness comes next along with a skin color change. With continued exposure, the skin will become hard or waxy-looking. The muscles and joints may become stiff and you may feel clumsy. Once rewarmed, the skin may blister or turn black dependent upon the level of damage.

How to Prevent It

If skin becomes numb, you might not notice frostbite—especially if you aren’t with someone who can point it out for you. It’s crucial that you practice frostbite prevention methods during freezing winter months. First things first: cover up! Dress in loose layers; it’ll help insulate your body. Your clothing should not only protect against the cold, but windy, wet weather. Moisture wicking clothing is recommended. Fully cover ears, and wear mittens rather than gloves. Hand and foot warmers are a good idea, too.

Pay attention to the weather. It might look sunny and beautiful outside, but we know all too well that the winter sun is misleading. When wind chills are dangerously low, frostbite can occur in just minutes. Regardless, be sure you limit your exposure to the elements in the winter and watch for signs of frostbite. Avoid alcohol consumption, and carry emergency supplies when traveling. Balanced meals and hydration will also help you stay warm, as will moving. Certain people are more at risk for frostbite than others (most often because they can’t sense the cold), including those with medical conditions that affect your ability to respond to the cold; addicts, alcoholics, and smokers; infants and older adults; and those with prior cold damage.

See a doctor if you believe you or someone you’re with has superficial or deep frostbite. Basic first aid can treat minor frostbite, including rewarming the skin with warm washcloths or baths, gently moving the skin to rewarm it, and taking pain medication. If there is pain, swelling, or discharge in the affected area after rewarming (especially accompanied by a fever or other new symptoms), you’ll also want to seek medical attention immediately. In the meantime, avoid walking on frostbitten feet, avoid further cold exposure, and take a pain reliever like ibuprofen for any pain.

If you have any questions, give us a call at 320-248-3679.

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