Parts of the United States are experiencing record-low temperatures. In many cases, people are just not properly prepared for the extreme cold and gusty winds. We’d like to remind everyone experiencing these extremely cold temperatures to take special precautions to avoid frostbite.
What is frostbite?
Frostbite is localized damage to skin and other tissues caused by exposure to extreme cold. Frostbite typically occurs in the extremities (fingers, toes, ears), or any exposed body part.
What are the signs/symptoms of frostbite?
Warning signs of frostbite can include: numbness, a tingling/stinging/itching sensation in the affected body part, numbness, aching in the affected body part, or pale and/or waxy skin that is discolored (white/grey). Redness and/or blisters can also signal frostbite.
How can you avoid frostbite?
The best way to avoid frostbite is to stay inside. Better yet, sit down by a warm, toasty fire, and pamper yourself with a Bel Mondo mask…
But when that is not an option, here are some things you can do to prevent frostbite:
This seems like common sense, but some methods of “bundling up” are better than others.
For example, mittens are a better option than gloves, because when you’re fingers are in contact with each other, they maintain their warmth better.
Also, while thick sweaters may seem like a good idea, you’re better off with many thinner layers of clothing rather than two thick layers. When you’re trying to prevent heat from escaping your body, extra layers provide extra resistance.
Remember to protect your ears and nose. Hats, earmuffs, scarves, and ski masks can all help prevent frostbite.
Make sure clothing is not too tight, as blood flow is important in preventing frostbite.
Your body is better able to maintain heat if it’s dry. Change out of wet clothes as soon as possible.
Avoid alcohol and cigarettes
Drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes can both cause your body to be more susceptible to the cold. In addition, alcohol can impair your ability to feel the first signs of frostbite.
If you think you might have frostbite
Get out of the cold immediately if you think you might have frostbite. Limit movement in the affected area(s), as excessive movement can cause the ice crystals that have formed to do further damage. DO NOT massage, rub, or “shake” the affected area. Avoid walking on frostbitten toes or feet, or using frostbitten hands/fingers any more than necessary.
It’s important to get warmth to the affected tissue as soon as possible to minimize the tissue damage. You can use your own body heat (example: placing hands under arms or between legs to warm them up), or wrap the area in blankets, etc. Even better is if you can warm up in a water bath no hotter than 105º fahrenheit. You should NOT use a heating pad, heat lamps, or a stove/fireplace for warming.
If normal sensations in the affected area haven’t returned within 30 minutes, seek medical attention immediately.