Frostbite is an injury that is caused by freezing of the skin and some tissues. The skin becomes very cold and red, then becomes numb, hard and pale, and usually happens on the toes, fingers, nose, ears, cheeks and chin. Exposing the skin to cold, windy weather is most susceptible to frostbite, but frostbite can also occur in skin that is covered by gloves or other clothing. By enrolling in a first aid class, you are prepared to manage this condition to prevent it from worsening.
Symptoms of frostbite
- The first sign is cold skin and prickling feeling
- There is numbness while the color of the skin is red, white, bluish white or grayish-yellow skin.
- A hard or waxy skin
- There is blistering after doing rewarming in a severe case
- Clumsiness due to the stiffened muscles
Frostbites occurs in stages
- 1st stage is frostnip which is a mild form of frostbite. The skin is pale and turns red and it feels very cold and if exposure to cold weather continues, the skin can lead to prickling and numbness of the affected area. When the skin begins to warm, there is pain and tingling sensations and there is no permanent damage to the skin.
- 2nd stage is superficial frostbite which appears as a reddened skin that will turn white or pale. The skin is soft, but there are some ice crystals that form in the tissues. If treating frostbite with rewarming at this stage, the surface of the skin may look mottled, purple or blue, and there is burning, stinging and swelling of the area. A blister filled with fluid will occur after 24-36 hours after rewarming of the skin.
- 3rd stage is severe frostbite which affects all the layers of the skin and tissues found under the skin. The person can experience numbness, loss of sensations for cold, pain and discomfort in the affected area. There is lack of mobility of the joints and muscles and large blisters will form after 24-48 hours after the rewarming. The affected area becomes black and hard and the tissues die.
Causes of frostbite
Frostbite happens when the skin and tissues found under the skin freeze due to exposure to cold-weather conditions but it can also be caused by direct contact with ice, freezing metals or very cold liquids. Some conditions that lead to frostbite include the following:
- Wearing of clothes that are not appropriate for the conditions since it cannot provide adequate protection to the cold, wet or windy weather conditions.
- Being outdoors in the cold and wind for long periods of time.
- Direct contact with materials like ice, cold packs or some frozen metal
Treatment and home remedies
- Provide over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen in order to minimize the pain and inflammation.
- Place aloe vera lotion or gel over the affected area for several times throughout the day to minimize inflammation.
- Avoid walking when the feet has frostbite
- Avoid too much contact to wind and cold
- Avoid breaking the blisters that occurs in the skin. Simply allow the blisters to break.