Frostbite: Know the signs and symptoms

When old man winter comes to town, it's important to make sure you and your family are ready for more than just a heavy snow fall.

We recently got this email from a concerned parent.

Dear Dr. Manny,
My kids wait about 10-15 minutes for their school bus every morning, should I be worried that they could get frostbite while they wait?
Thanks, Sharon

Frostbite is a serious medical condition that occurs when the skin and underlying tissues literally freeze.

Since kids lose more heat from their skin than adults, they are at an increased risk for developing the condition. The most common cause for frostbite is exposure to freezing temperatures and wind chills below zero.

According to the National Weather Service’s wind-chill chart, if the temperature is -15 degrees out with a 20mph wind, the temperature will feel like -42 degrees and your child could get frostbite within 10 minutes.

Frostbite typically affects smaller more exposed body parts like- the nose, earlobes, fingers, hands and toes.

Signs and symptoms parents should look out for include:

-A change in skin color- usually to a red, white or pale grayish-yellow color

-A prickly and slightly painful sensation

-Hard or waxy looking skin


-A cold or burning feeling

-Blistering, in severe cases

If you ever suspect your child has frostbite, get him or her indoors and bathe the affected area in lukewarm water - not hot water. If the symptoms worsen, seek medical help immediately.

Here are some helpful tips to keep you and your family safe in cold temperatures:

-Stay updated on the weather forecast and wind chill readings.

-Dress in layers and wear windproof and waterproof outer garments.

-Cover your head with a hat that goes over your ears and wear mittens rather than gloves

-And don’t forget to limit your time outside and change out of any wet clothes or shoes as soon as you or your child comes back indoors.

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