Frostbite—Causes, Symptoms and Preventions

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Frostbite is an injury resulted from the freezing of the skin and underlying tissues. When you get frostbite, your skin first becomes very cold and red, then numb, hard and pale. Frostbite commonly occurs on the fingers, toes, nose, ears, cheeks and chin. Exposed skin in cold, windy weather is most vulnerable to frostbite. However, frostbite can also occur even you wear gloves or other clothing.  


The most common cause of frostbite is skin exposure to cold-weather conditions. But direct contact with ice, frozen metal or very cold liquids can also cause it. Specific conditions include:
  •  Wearing unsuitable clothing for the conditions you're in, especially clothes that do not protect against cold, windy or wet weather or too tight.
  • Staying outside in the cold and wind too long. Risk increases as air temperature falls below 5 F (minus 15 C), even with mild wind. In wind chill of minus 16.6 F (minus 27 C), frostbite can occur on exposed skin in less than half an hour.
  • Touching ice, cold packs or frozen metal.


Signs and symptoms of frostbite include:
  • Cold skin and a prickling feeling
  • Numbness
  • Red, white, bluish-white or grayish-yellow skin
  • Hard or waxy-looking skin
  • Clumsiness due to joint and muscle stiffness
  • Blistering after rewarming, in severe cases
Frostbite is most common on the fingers, toes, nose, ears, cheeks and chin. Due to skin numbness, you may not realize you have frostbite until someone else tells you. <!--nextpage-->


Frostbite can be prevented. Here are tips to help you stay safe and warm.
  • Limit time you're outdoors in cold, wet or windy weather. Pay attention to weather forecasts and wind chill readings.
  • Dress in loose, warm clothing. Wear windproof and waterproof outer garments to protect against wind, snow and rain.
  • Wear a hat or headband fully covering your ears. Heavy woolen or windproof materials are best choice for cold protection.
  •  Wear mittens rather than gloves. Mittens provide better protection.
  •  Wear socks and sock liners that fit well, wick moisture and provide insulation. You might also try hand and foot warmers.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite. Early signs of frostbite include red or pale skin, prickling, and numbness. Seek warm shelter if you notice signs of frostbite.
  •  Plan to protect yourself. When traveling in cold weather, carry emergency supplies and warm clothing in case of any emergency.
  •  Don't drink alcohol if you plan to be outdoors in cold weather. Alcoholic beverages cause your body to lose heat faster.
  • Eat well-balanced meals and stay hydrated. Doing this even before you go out in the cold helps you stay warm.
  • Keep moving. Exercise can get the blood flowing and help you stay warm, but don't do it to the point of exhaustion.

When to see a doctor

Seek medical attention for frostbite if you experience:
  • Fever
  • New, unexplained symptoms
  • Signs and symptoms of superficial or deep frostbite
  • Increased pain, swelling, redness or discharge in the area that was frostbitten
Get emergency medical help if you suspect hypothermia. A person with hypothermia loses heat faster than it can be produced. Signs and symptoms of hypothermia include:
  • Slurred speech
  • Intense shivering
  • Drowsiness and loss of coordination

What you can do (Home Remedies)

While waiting for emergency medical help or a doctor's appointment, take appropriate self-care measures, such as:
  • Protecting the affected area from further cold
  • mages a bone's growth plate
  • Not walking on frostbitten feet
  • Avoid infection
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