How to Prevent Frostbite

frost biteAn 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:

  • Infection
  • 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.

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