What is Frostbite?
Frostbite occurs when the body tissues freeze due to exposure of the skin to temperatures below 32°F. Most cases of frostbite are mild with temporary symptoms, but prolonged exposure to cold can result in permanent, serious tissue damage. In severe cases, frostbite may lead to amputation. People with reduced blood circulation and people who are dressed inappropriately are at greater risk for frostbite.
How does it occur?
The fingers, toes, ears, chin, cheeks and nose are the most susceptible parts of the body. Extremities are particularly vulnerable because the body constricts the blood vessels in the skin of these areas to reduce the blood flow. In this way, the body preserves the core temperature by decreasing the exposure of the blood to cold temperature. In extreme cases, some parts of the body receive little or no blood flow for extended periods, and prolonged lack of blood flow results in severe tissue damage.
Do I have frostbite?
Symptoms include areas of pale, white or grayish-yellow skin, skin that feels unusually firm or waxy, or loss of feeling. Be aware that numbness of the frozen tissues may leave the victim unaware of the tissue damage that is occurring. In these cases, someone else might point out suspicious areas of skin to the victim.
How do I treat frostbite?
If you experience symptoms of frostbite, seek medical care. If no medical care is available, move to a warm location as soon as possible. Try not to walk on frostbitten feet or toes because this increases the tissue damage. Begin to warm the affected areas slowly.
Skin with frostbite can be numb with a pale, white or grayish-yellow appearance and an unusually firm or waxy feeling