What is frostnip?

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Freezing temperature and cold weather conditions can damage the body tissues, especially those that are exposed to the dry, freezing and windy weather. Frostnip is a mild form of frostbite and considered as the initial phase before frostbite sets in.

Prolonged exposure to cold without treatment can lead to frostbite and causes permanent damage to the tissues. Frostnip affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, toes and fingertips. The initial sign of frostnip is numbness and followed by pale discoloration of the affected tissues.

Frostnip is an injury to the skin caused by cold weather and develops when the blood vessels or capillaries becomes contracted due to exposure to intense cold atmosphere. An intense cold environment will cause evaporation of moisture from the skin and causes contraction of the blood vessels. Exposure to cold winds also cause more damage. Frostnip starts to develop if the atmospheric temperature is below 15 degree Celsius.

Symptoms of frostnip

The first sign of frostnip is the white and waxy appearance along with the rubbery feeling on the skin of the fingertips.

Frostnip can develop when handling cold liquid or metal. Poor blood circulation in the limbs can worsen frostnip in the fingertips and toes. Frostnip is not a serious condition but if given treatment immediately, the tissues that were damaged can return back to its original state.

  • The first sign of frostnip is the white and waxy appearance along with the rubbery feeling on the skin of the fingertips. This is caused by the contraction of the blood vessels found below the skin.
  • Numbness of the nerves caused by cold condition, and there is numbness of the toes, fingertips and loss of sensations.
  • The affected area experiences a tingling and burning sensation
  • The affected skin becomes red and the burning sensation and pain becomes severe.

Treatment of frostnip

  • The affected person should go to a warmer place.
  • Apply warmth by blowing on the fingertips or the toes if they start to show signs of frostnip.
  • If the nose is affected, apply warm hands to the nose. In case the fingertips are freezing, put them in the armpits. In such cases, there is tingling and burning sensation that can be felt at the start.
  • Strip the affected part of covering and immerse in warm water until the color changes to pink or red and soft and pliable to the touch.
  • Drink warm liquids such as coffee or tea.
  • Do not massage the affected areas since it will worsen its condition.

Prevention of frostnip

  • Wear several layers of clothing with the innermost layer made out of fabric that wicks moisture from the skin while the outer layer serves as a windbreaker.
  • Wear mittens and socks at least two pairs and they should be made out of wool on the outer side.
  • Put on a hat and scarf to protect the ears.
  • Wiggle the fingers and toes if they start to feel numb.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol before and during cold exposure since alcohol prevents the individual from realizing that his/her body is becoming cold.
  • Avoid smoking since it causes constriction of the blood vessels and puts the individual at high risk for frostbite.

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