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Learn About Frostbite Treatment and How to Recognize the Signs and Symptoms

Paul Laris Jan 8, 2015

Frostbite occurs when body tissue or skin is exposed to freezing temperatures. This can happen over a short or prolonged period of time depending on the temperature and wind chill. The nose, ears, fingers, toes, cheeks and chin are often the most susceptible to the freezing cold weather.

Permanent damage to the body can happen which could lead to amputation. People with circulation problems and people who are not dressed appropriately for extreme cold temperatures are most at risk. Check the victim for symptoms of hypothermia, this could be a medical emergency.

Frostbite Symptoms:

* Redness or pain in any skin area.
* A feeling of pins and needles, followed by numbness.
* A white or grayish yellow skin color.
* The skin could be hard, pale, cold or have no feeling.
* Severe frostbite could appear very white and numb, this could indicate that the tissue has started to freeze. Seek medical attention immediately!
* Very severe frostbite can cause blisters, blackened skin or dead tissue (gangrene). Seek medical attention immediately!

Until someone points it out, most victims don't realize they have frostbite due to the numbness and lack of feeling.

Frostbite Treatment:

* If possible move the victim to a warm place.
* The victim should avoid walking if they have frostbitten feet or toes.
* Remove any wet clothing or constricting jewelry.
* Wrap the affected area with sterile dressing, separating affected fingers and toes and get the victim to medical assistance immediately.
* If you can not get immediate medical attention, then the affected area should be immersed in warm (not hot) water. The water temperature should not be more than 104 degrees or should be comfortable to the touch.
* If the affected area is ears, nose or cheeks, use warm cloths and apply for 20 to 30 minutes keeping the cloths warm.
* If warm water is not available, the affected area can be warmed using body heat. Frostbitten fingers can be heated by placing in the armpit.
* During the warming process, severe swelling, burning pain and skin color changes may occur. When the skin is soft and sensation returns, the warming process is completed.
* The frostbitten area should not be rubbed using snow or massage. This can cause further damage.
* Do not use direct heat from a stove, heating pad, heat lamp, fireplace or other similar heat source. This may increase the chances of burning the victims affected area.
* Blisters should not be disturbed.
* The victim should not smoke or drink alcoholic beverages. This could interfere with blood circulation.
* The frostbitten area should not be thawed out if it can not be kept thawed out. Damage could be worse if the tissue re-freezes.

Frostbite Prevention:

* Be aware of factors, such as extreme cold, high winds, wet clothes and poor circulation.
* Clothing should be suitable for cold temperatures which would include, mittens (not gloves), water resistant, wind proof, layered clothing. Two pairs of socks (cotton next to skin), hat or scarf that covers the head and ears
* Find shelter early if you are caught in a severe snow storm.
* To maintain body heat increase physical activity.

When to get professional frostbite treatment:

* In the case of severe or very severe frostbite.
* If normal color or feeling of the affected does not return.
* If symptoms develop such as fever, discoloration or drainage from the affected area.

Paul Laris is an author and advisor on Emergency, Disaster and First Aid information. His website EmergencySuppliesInfo.com [http://www.emergencysuppliesinfo.com], will give you up to date information and videos on what to do before, during and after an Emergency.

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