Frostbite can be superficial or deep resulting in temporary or permanent damage to the skin respectively. This is typically caused by exposure to temperatures below 32°F where the skin freezes causing damage to underlying vasculature. Those with already impaired circulation due to peripheral vascular disease, diabetes mellitus and those on drugs such as beta blockers are at aneven higher risk to this condition.
Loss of Sensitivity to touch
Tingling/ Burning sensations
Disappearance of pain as condition progresses
Color changes from red to white/purple as blood flow is lost
Severe frostbites become infected or develop gangrene resulting in the death of tissues.
Remove yourself from the extreme low temperature atmosphere
If there is an internal drop in body temperature, treat the hypothermia first
Re-warm the area where the frost bite occurred (typically fingers, toes, ears, nose)
Immerse body part in a bath with a constant temperature of 104-105°F for approximately one hour
The key is to vasodilate the blood vessels to allow a return of blood to the affected area.
It is important to avoid smoking as nicotine causes vasoconstriction which is a contraindication in an attempt to treat frost bite.
Once the affected area is re-warmed, it is important to contact your doctor in an effort to seek vascular consult. Once the area is “thawed”, swelling may occur, the skin may develop dark blisters and the area becomes painful.
In cases where the frost bite is extremely severe and develops gangrene, surgery is almost automatic.
Be sure to moisturize all areas that may be exposed in the extremely low temperatures.
Proper attire – including warm, dry clothes, thick absorbent socks, gloves/mittens, hats that cover the ears or earmuffs
Monitor children playing outside to ensure they do not lose their thermal accessories
When exercising, be sure to dress appropriately to ensure insulation as discussed in last week’s blog.
Go inside when feeling to cold. Do not ignore your body’s warning signs.
Avoid smoking and alcohol consumption when venturing out in extreme temperatures as, we said before, nicotine causes vasoconstriction, which decreases the blood flow to the periphery, and alcohol hinders the body’s tempe