An extremely serious condition caused by cold temperatures, frostbite is literally the freezing of tissues. Typically, ears, toes, fingers and the nose are most vulnerable; however, any living tissue can fall prey, so it’s important to take precautionary steps to limit your risk.
What Are the Risks?
Frostbite can lead to a variety of long-term consequences, including:
- Increased risk of future incidents of frostbite
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Long-term numbness of an impacted area
- Permanent changes in joint cartilage
- Growth defects related to damage to a bone’s growth plate
- Gangrene and amputation
To prevent frostbite, it’s important to take precautionary steps when exposed to cold temperatures. These include:
- Limit exposure to wet, cold or windy conditions.
- Be aware of weather forecasts and wind chill readings.
- Dress in layers of warm, loose clothing.
- Change wet clothing, especially socks, hats and gloves.
- Cover your ears with a headband, hat or earmuffs.
- Dress children with mittens instead of gloves.
- Wear socks that fit well.
- Avoid alcohol and cigarettes, since these can make it hard for your body to warm itself.
- Stay hydrated.
- Keep moving to stimulate circulation.
- Change out of sweaty clothes.
Many people are surprised to learn that frostbite can occur in a matter of minutes, so it’s very important to recognize telltale symptoms, such as numbness, pain, prickling and pale or red skin. If you notice these symptoms, get to a warm place and remove any wet clothing. If the symptoms persist, seek prompt medical attention to guard against potentially serious long-term consequences.