Prolonged exposure to very low temperatures can cause the skin and surrounding tissue to freeze, resulting in frostbite. Though it can strike almost anywhere, the areas most commonly affected by frostbite include the fingers, toes, ears, nose, cheeks and chin. While mild cases are often harmless, more severe frostbite requires careful medical attention to minimize any damage caused. Hikers, mountaineers, hunters and those who live in colder climates would be wise to familiarize themselves with the correct methods for dealing with frostbite.
Cases of frostbite can vary greatly in severity. In order to determine the best method of treatment, you���ll first need to assess the extent of the damage caused. In milder cases, known as frost-nip, freezing is limited primarily to the skin, while more severe frostbite can damage the underlying tissue. Individuals with frost-nip may experience a painful tingling sensation and begin exhibiting red or dark patches on their skin.
If the skin around your extremities has turned a greyish-yellow or white color and feels firmer or waxy, you may have more serious frostbite. In more severe cases, frostbite will even cause blistering around the affected area. Once you���ve diagnosed what level of frostbite you are experiencing, you can begin treating it more effectively. Remember that you should only begin treatment when you���re absolutely sure that the affected areas will not freeze again, as this can lead to irreversible tissue damage.
The main treatment for almost all cases of frostbite is to gradually warm the affected skin. If you are outdoors, try to shield the frostbitten areas from the cold by placing your hands in your armpits or covering your face. Once you���ve reached shelter, remove any wet clothes and tight jewelry you may be wearing.
The key is to slowly warm your body, as rapid thawing may cause extra damage to the tissue. Avoid using direct heat, such as open flames, stoves or heating pads. Instead, wrap yourself in dry blankets and place your feet and hands in warm water, no hotter than 107 degrees. You might also apply a warm cloth or hot air to the affected areas. Maintain this gradual heating process until your skin has returned to normal.
If you are suffering from more severe frostbite, you may need to seek urgent medical care. You can also take immediate action by following the steps described above. As you begin to thaw frostbitten areas, you should begin to feel a severe burning sensation, so it���s recommended that you take some mild medication to help ease the pain. Once you���ve successfully thawed the affected areas, it���s important not to place pressure on them, as this may cause additional harm. If blisters begin to appear, do not touch them and seek medical assistance immediately.