The Dangers of Frostbite: How to Prevent and What To Do if You Get It
a blog by My Emergency Room Abilene
You probably know that frostbite is a danger when you spend time outside in cold weather, whether it’s just for a few minutes or extended periods like during an outdoor job.
Once your skin gets exposed to freezing temperatures, the result is going to be the same: frostbite. If you aren’t accustomed to spending time outdoors in freezing temperatures regularly, you may not know exactly what frostbite is or what the risks are if you get it.
Fortunately, this blog post will give you all of the information that you need to stay safe and prevent yourself from getting frostbite when working outdoors in cold weather.
What is Frostbite?
Frostbite is a condition that results from the freezing of your skin and the tissues just below your skin. It happens when your skin is exposed to temperatures below freezing for a long period, usually more than a couple of hours or shorter if the temperature is extreme enough.
The most common areas for frostbite to occur are your hands, feet, ears, and cheeks. Frostbite can also happen to your nose and the skin below your knees. When your skin is exposed to freezing temperatures, your body tries to keep the blood flowing to your skin, which then results in cold, numb skin.
If your skin gets too cold, ice crystals will form and cause damage to your skin and tissues. Frostbite is a form of frozen tissue.
Frostbite is different from hypothermia, which is when your body temperature drops below normal. Frostbite is an injury that happens as a result of cold temperatures on your skin.
How to Prevent Frostbite
- Stay Hydrated: When you’re outdoors in cold weather, you lose water from your skin, which can cause your skin to become brittle and more susceptible to injury. You can prevent this by drinking plenty of water. The warmer the water is when you drink it, the better, as the warmer water helps you to maintain your normal body temperature.
- Stay in a Warm Environment: If you’re outside in the cold, try to find a warm place to rest. A warm shelter, vehicle, or building will help to keep you warmer.
- Wear Gloves, Mittens, and Warm Gloves: If you’re working in an outdoor environment, you should always wear gloves while doing your job. If you’re only out in the cold for a short time, you may be able to get away with wearing just a pair of warm gloves. If you’re out in the cold for a longer time, you should wear gloves and/or mittens that are designed for keeping you warm in freezing temperatures.
- Stay Dry: If you get wet in cold temperatures, you run the risk of becoming hypothermic. You can prevent this by wearing layers that will keep you dry and make sure that you keep your head and hands dry, too.
What to Do if You Get Frostbite
If you get frostbite, you should get inside as fast as possible and get warm. You can also try to use warm water to gently wash the frostbite off your skin.
DO NOT USE HOT WATER, you may think hot water would be good to heat your hands back up but that is incorrect. Your hands will be numb from the frostbite and will be unable to feel the temperature of the water and therefore can cause worse burns. Use warm water only, use an unaffected part of your body to get a feel for the temp of the water.
For mild frostbite, you may be able to warm the area of your skin with your hands, a warm towel, or a warm water bottle. Once you get to a warm environment, you can treat your frostbite by gently washing the affected area with warm water.
Be careful to avoid breaking the skin where you have frostbite, as it may cause the tissue beneath the skin to die. If your skin is broken, make sure to clean the skin and the broken area very well to avoid getting an infection.
You can put the area in warm, but not hot, water to help it heal.
The Dangers of Frostbite
If you get frostbite and don’t treat it, it will get worse and you may lose parts of your hands or feet. You may also be at a higher risk for infection, especially if you don’t clean the skin very well where you have frostbite.
Frostbite can also cause hypothermia if your body temperature drops too low. To prevent this, make sure to get out of the cold as soon as possible and get warm. It is especially important that you avoid getting your feet wet. If you have frostbite on your feet, you should get to a doctor as soon as possible for express treatment.
There are a few ways that you can get frostbite on your feet, so you need to be more careful than if you get frostbite on your hands or cheeks. Since you have a lot of blood vessels in your feet, frostbite can happen much quicker and can be more serious than on other parts of your body.
Frostbite is a danger when you are working outdoors in cold weather, and it can have serious long-term consequences if you don’t take the right steps to prevent and treat it.
While sometimes you can’t completely avoid getting frostbite, there are many things that you can do to reduce your risk. By following these tips, you can keep yourself safe from frostbite when you are outside in the cold.