A higher risk of frostbite is likely for people who:.
What is frostnip?
Frostbite is caused by exposure to very cold temperatures or water, or very long exposure to less cold temperatures. Frostbite usually affects fingers, toes, faces, and ears. The cold can affect both the skin and the tissues under the skin, such as muscles, nerves, and joints. Frostbite can be mild, moderate, or severe. Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Frostbite If you are experiencing any symptoms of frostbite, seek medical help right away.
Move thawed areas as little as possible. Refreezing of thawed extremities can cause more severe damage. Prevent refreezing by wrapping the thawed areas and keeping the person warm. If protection from refreezing cannot be guaranteed, it may be better to delay the initial rewarming process until a warm, safe location is reached. If the frostbite is severe, give the person warm drinks to replace lost fluids.
Refreezing may make tissue damage even worse. Use direct dry heat such as a radiator, campfire, heating pad, or hair dryer to thaw the frostbitten areas. Direct heat can burn the tissues that are already damaged. Rub or massage the affected area. Disturb blisters on frostbitten skin.
Smoke or drink alcoholic beverages during recovery as both can interfere with blood circulation. When to Contact a Medical Professional. Call your health care provider if: You had severe frostbite Normal feeling and color do not return promptly after home treatment for mild frostbite Frostbite has occurred recently and new symptoms develop, such as fever , general ill-feeling, skin discoloration, or drainage from the affected body part.
Be aware of factors that can contribute to frostbite. These include extreme: Wet clothes High winds Poor blood circulation. Poor circulation can be caused by tight clothing or boots, cramped positions, fatigue , certain medicines, smoking, alcohol use , or diseases that affect the blood vessels, such as diabetes.
Stages of Frostbite
Alternative Names. First aid kit Frostbite - hands Frostbite. Frostbite Read more. Health Topics A-Z Read more. Before thawing , the affected part is hard, cold, white, or bloodless.
When to seek medical attention
The skin is rigid and the depth of freezing difficult to determine. Frostbite is rendered more dangerous by the fact that there is no sensation of pain , and the victim may not even know that he has been frostbitten. In dealing with frostbite, body temperature is usually restored to as near normal as possible before thawing.
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Under no circumstances should attempts be made to warm the affected area by rubbing or chafing it, since this can damage the cell structure of the frozen tissues. The old theory that a frostbitten area should be rubbed with snow or ice is similarly false and potentially harmful. Rapid thawing of the hands or feet in warm water baths is a presently favoured method of therapy.
Thawing time is determined by the temperature of the bath and the depth of the freezing; thawing is complete when the tip of the extremity flushes pink or red. If the affected area remains white after thawing, this means that the cold has so affected local blood vessels that normal circulation has not yet resumed. After rapid thawing small blisters appear rapidly, spontaneously rupturing in 4 to 10 days.
A castlike scab, often black, forms after the blisters rupture. Normal tissue may have already formed below. The thawed part is usually protected to avoid both refreezing and excessive heat.
Frostbite in Children
Neither bandages nor dressings are used, and the area is cleansed with benign soaps. Constant digital exercises are performed to preserve joint motion. Early surgical removal of unhealthy tissue debridement and amputation is avoided. Whirlpool action will debride devitalized tissues. Antibiotics are used if necessary; toxoid booster injections are a recommended precaution. After thawing, further treatment is aimed at the prevention of infection and preservation of function.
First Aid: Frostbite (for Parents) - KidsHealth
The outlook is best when the frozen state is of short duration, when the thawing is by rapid rewarming, and when blisters develop early, pink and large, and extend to the tips of the hands or toes. The outlook is uncertain when thawing is spontaneous, as at room temperature, when the frozen state is of long duration, and when the freezing is superimposed on top of a fracture or dislocation.
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The outlook is poor when thawing is delayed, as in ice and snow, when thawing is by excessive heat i. The last two conditions are disastrous and almost always require amputation of the affected part. Major complications after freezing, and following treatment, may be infection and tissue death, requiring amputation. Less tragic aftereffects are increased sweating, sensory loss, diminished subcutaneous fat pad of the toes and fingers, persistent deep pain, limitation of joint motion, and nail-bed changes.
Other permanent effects include fixed scars, wasting of the small muscle, joint deformity, arthritic changes in bone, and neurovascular involvement in the extremities resulting in the inability to protect against lowered temperatures, coupled with increased sensitivity to cold. To prevent frostbite, clothing in cold weather should be dry, layered, and with warm, loose hand wear and footwear. Tight, restricting bands should not be worn.
Exposed flesh should be protected from the wind: face masks, hoods, and earmuffs are helpful. In cold, an individual must remain alert, avoiding the excessive use of alcohol and drugs inhibiting mental or physical capability. Should freezing follow an accident, major efforts must be made to avoid further heat loss in order to prevent death; and, in any situation in which freezing has occurred, thawing should be prevented if refreezing may take place.
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