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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.