HealtH Magazine 2014 • Page 3 • WeeK OF January 26, 2014
s the frigid temperatures of winter take hold, people who spend time outside put themselves at risk for frostbite. In the most severe cases, victims are permanently damaged and can lose their ﬁngers, toes or other extremities. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to prevent frostbite. We can help you learn how to recognize and treat it.
The ﬁrst step to heading oﬀ frostbite is the most obvious: Stay inside during extremely cold weather. If you do have to venture into the cold, make sure to dress appropriately. Wear at least two layers of socks to protect your feet, and a thin pair of gloves under thicker gloves to keep your hands and ﬁngers warm. Earmuﬀs, an ear band and a hat will protect your ears.Dr. James Cole, assistant director of trauma services at Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill., said certain people are at risk for frostbite. Diabetics, people with vascular diseases and smokers should be especially cautious when temperatures dip.“Prevention is rather easy when it comes to frostbite,” Cole said. “All of us should know enough to get inside when it gets too cold or when we start to feel numbness in our extremities.”
Frostbite occurs when the skin and tissue underneath it freeze. In less-severe cases, skin—typically your nose, cheeks or ears—will turn white and feel numb.As the person heads inside and the skin starts warming back up, the frostbitten area can become red and painful.With more severe cases of frostbite, the skin turns very white and feels extremely numb. Such cases can cause blisters and permanent damage to tendons, bone and muscles.
If you suspect that you have frostbite, don’t panic. Cole says most people don’t need to see a doctor because they can easily treat themselves. First, immediately remove wet clothing, gloves and socks. Remove any constrictive clothing such as wristbands, shirts with sleeves that are tight at the wrists or tight socks. This will improve the circulation of blood to your frostbitten extremities. Get oﬀ your feet and begin warming your skin. Place your hands under your armpits and put aﬀected extremities in water that’s not too hot—about 100 degrees. Cole recommends trying these measures for about 20 minutes or until your skin begins to regain its natural color. Don’t use dry heat, such as from a ﬁreplace or hairdryer, to warm your skin. Don’t rub or massage the frozen area, either; that can cause tissue damage.If these methods don’t work, then patients should seek outside medical attention.
Additional sources: Farmer’s Almanac, ScienceDaily.com.
use COMMOn sense tO Prevent iCy ailMent
By Dan raFter | MOre COntent nOW