With the temperatures plummeting once again here in southern Ontario frostbite is something everyone should be aware of. The windchill values are expected to fall between -10 and -40 today and tomorrow. This means that exposed skin can freeze in as little as 5 minutes.
Typical locations for frostbite include the fingers, toes, nose, ears, cheeks and chin.
Some early signs of frostbite include numbness and tingling, redness, bluish-white, or grey-yellowing of the skin, hardening of the skin, clumsiness (due to joint and muscle stiffness), and in severe cases blistering.
If left untreated frostbite can lead to infection, or nerve damage therefore if you suspect frostbite please seek medical care. If you can't get to medical care and there are no signs of hypothermia (as hypothermia and frostbite can occur simultaneously)
Get into a warm location
Try not to walk on frostbitten feet/toes unless absolutely necessary - this may increase damage caused by frostbite
Immerse the affected area in warm (not hot) water or warm the affected area using body heat (such as an armpit)
Do not massage the area, use a heating lamp, heat lamp, heat of a stove/radiator as numb areas can be easily burned
Many people are at an increased risk for frostbite due to previous medical conditions including
Those conditions that affect your ability to feel or respond to cold (dehydration, exhaustion, diabetes, peripheral vascular disease),
Alcohol or drug abuse,
Smoking, fear, panic, or mental illness,
Previous frostbite or cold injury,
Infants or seniors are at higher risk,
Being at high altitudes (reduces oxygen supply)
As previously mentioned the consequences of frostbite can be quite severe so taking prevention is the best way to avoid frostbite. Stay indoors and/or wear appropriate clothing ensuring skin is covered on really cold winter days.
Stay warm everybody!
Dr Kendra Clifford ND
Mayo Clinic(2014). Frostbite. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/frostbite/basics/symptoms/con-20034608
CDC. (2012). Frostbite. http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/staysafe/frostbite.asp