Recently in Frostbite (Cold Induced Injury) Category

April 27, 2010

Frostbite (Cold Induced Injury) Part II

Treatment of frostbite:

  • Seek medical attention.
  • Move the person to a warmer area; remove any constricting jewelry or clothing as well as wet clothing.
  • Cover the person with warm blankets.
  • Immerse the affected area in warm water (never use hot water) with temperature between 104 to 108 degrees, for 20-30 minutes. During the warming process burning pain and swelling may occur but it is important to continue warming.
  • Apply dry, sterile dressing to the affected area; remember to separate affected fingers and toes by putting the dressings between frostbitten fingers or toes to keep them separated.
  • Move the affected area as little as possible.
  • Refreezing of the affected area can cause more severe damage, therefore keeping the affected area warm is important.
  • Treatment should be continued by a medical professional as needed.
Things not to be done:
  • Don't use direct dry heat to warm the affected area such as radiator or hair dryer as these areas are numb and can burn easily.
  • Don't use hot water as it may burn the affected area.
  • Don't rub or massage the affect area as this may cause more damage.
  • Don't disturb blisters that are present.
  • Don't smoke or drink alcohol during the process of recovery as smoking and alcohol can interfere with the blood circulation.
Prevention:
  • Avoid going out in extreme cold or windy weather.
  • In situations where you have to work or go out for long periods of time in very cold weather, wear protective clothing. This includes many layered dry, wind proof garments, gloves, a scarf, a hat and 2 pairs of socks. Cotton clothing is better than wool. Avoid tight clothing and boots as these may cause poor circulation.
  • Stop smoking and drinking alcohol if you expect to be exposed to cold weather for a long period of time as this may interfere with the blood circulation.
  • If you are caught in a severe snow storm, try to find shelter as early as possible, also it is important to increase physical activity in order to maintain body warmth especially in the hands and feet.
  • People with risk factors (see above) that can contribute to frostbite should take precaution and avoid extreme cold weathers such as those with diabetes.

This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.

April 26, 2010

Frostbite (Cold Induced Injury) Part I

Frostbite is a tissue injury induced by exposure to cold. Frost bite happens when a person is exposed to extreme cold leading to damage of the skin and the underlying tissue. Any part of the body may be affected by frostbite but it usually occurs in the nose, ears, fingers and toes.

When the temperature reaches zero or below, the blood vessels located close to the skin start to constrict to decrease the blood flowing throw them which in turn will lead to decrease heat loss and preserve core body temperature (see regulation of body temperature). When the skin and the underlying tissues are exposed to prolonged cold or extreme cold, the flow of blood to the affected areas will be greatly reduced leading to damage to these areas which may be permanent leading to tissue death and amputation in severe cases.

The risk of frostbite increases in the following:


  • Persons who use medications that decrease the blood flow to the skin such as beta-blockers.

  • Persons with peripheral vascular disease which decrease the blood flow to the affected tissue.

  • People with peripheral neuropathy which decreases the ability to feel injuries.

  • Smoking and diabetes.

  • High velocity wind which increases the rate of heat loss from the skin.

  • Persons who are not well dressed for extremely cold temperature.


Signs and symptoms:

  • Each individual may experience symptoms differently; the signs and symptoms depend on the severity

  • Pins and needles sensation followed by mild numbness.

  • Redness and pain in the affected skin area.

  • Firm or waxy skin which is white and completely numb (a sign that tissues have started to freeze).

  • Skin blisters.

  • Very severe frost bite may cause gangrene (blackened, dead tissue) and damage to the deep structures such as muscles and nerves.


This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.