Frostbite is a potentially dangerous condition that can result in permanent damage and even amputation of the affected areas.
Frostbite occurs when the body’s tissue is exposed to extreme cold, or exposed for a prolonged period of time. Frostbite can attack any part of the body but must often affects the extremities, such as the hands, fingers, feet, toes, nose and ears. The amount of time it takes for frostbite to begin depends on the temperature, wind chill and amount of exposure. Another major contributing factor is moisture. If exposed skin is wet or damp it will freeze faster then dry skin.
If you suspect frostbite has, or may occur, check for the warning signs. The affected person will feel a pins and needled sensation, followed by numbness in the affected area. At the first onset of frostbite the skin is very cold and white, this soon changes to a red and swollen appearance. Immediate and prompt medical attention is a key factor in determining the outcome of damage due to frostbite. When medical help is not instantly available, knowing first aid for frostbite is essential.
First, remove the victim from the cold. Thawing skin that may refreeze causes more damage. Remove any clothing and restrictive objects from the affected area, such as rings and watches. Slowly began rewarming the frostbitten areas. If blankets and warm, dry clothing are not available, you can use your own body, or that of the victim to provide warmth. Hands can be warmed by placing in the armpits, yours or their own. Feet can also be warmed in the armpits of the rescuers. Using your own body heat is a great source of warmth. If warm water is available you can submerge the affected body parts. Water must NOT be above 40 degrees, use your elbow to test that it is not hot to the touch. Not knowing the proper procedure for treating frostbite can unknowingly cause more harm. Be sure to learn this important do not list.
Rub the affected area
Apply direct heat
Use the affected area, such as walking on a frostbitten foot
Began thawing if there is a chance of refreezing
People suffering from frostbite have usually been exposed to the cold long enough to also have hypothermia. Hypothermia is life threatening and must be treated first.
When they affected area has thawed, if there was no tissue damage, a full recovery can be expected. However, if the blood vessels were damaged, and the tissue is dead, damage will be permanent. In the most extreme cases, amputation may be necessary to stop the spread of gangrene.
Sources: The Canadian Medical Association Home Medical Encyclopedia