Frostbite: What Is It and What To Do
Extreme cold can be very dangerous. One of the serious things that can happen to your body is frostbite. I've known about frostbite my whole life but have only been vaguely aware of what exactly it is.
I know that covering up my skin is the best way to avoid it and that the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, and toes are the most susceptible. But how do I recognize it and what should I do? Let's find out.
The Centers for Disease Control's says:
Frostbite is a type of injury caused by freezing. It leads to a loss of feeling and color in the areas it affects, usually extremities such as the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, and toes. Frostbite can permanently damage the body, and severe cases can lead to amputation (removing the affected body part). -CDC.gov
The website adds that "[a] victim is often unaware of frostbite until someone else points it out because the frozen tissues are numb." That's a nice thought. So, how do you know that it might be frostbite?
If you notice redness or pain in any skin area, get out of the cold or protect any exposed skin—frostbite may be beginning. Any of the following signs may point to frostbite:
- A white or grayish-yellow skin area
- Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
- Numbness -CDC.gov
OK, I get it, what do you do if you think it might be frostbite?
- Get into a warm room as soon as possible.
- Unless absolutely necessary, do not walk on frostbitten feet or toes—this increases the damage.
- Immerse the affected area in warm—not hot—water (the temperature should be comfortable to the touch for unaffected parts of the body).
- Or, warm the affected area using body heat. For example, the heat of an armpit can be used to warm frostbitten fingers.
- Do not rub the frostbitten area with snow or massage it at all. This can cause more damage.
- Don’t use a heating pad, heat lamp, or the heat of a stove, fireplace, or radiator for warming. Affected areas are numb and can be easily burned.
These procedures are not substitutes for proper medical care....frostbite should be evaluated by a health care provider.
Alright, how about a video?
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