Frostbite

Frostbite is a result of skin and underlying tissues freezing, most commonly on the fingers, toes, nose, ears, chin and cheeks. Most at risk are those areas of your body that are directly exposed to the weather but if it’s cold enough, no skin is safe.

Frostnip is the milder form of cold injury but doesn’t cause permanent skin damage. Any actual frostbite requires medical attention to mitigate damage to skin, tissues, muscles, bones and even nerves.  In severe cases, there may be infection.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

  • Blistering
  • Cold skin
  • Discoloration of the skin
  • Joint and muscle stiffness
  • Numbness
  • Prickling feeling

RISK FACTORS

  • Altitude
  • Angina
  • Cardiac insufficiency
  • Dehydration
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Heavy Alcohol consumption
  • Peripheral vascular disease
  • Stroke

STAGES OF FROSTBITE

Within the following categories, there are stages of severity.

  • Superficial frostbite will change your skin color. It may redden and then whiten.  If your skin begins to feel warm, it is a danger sign.  If you rewarm, your injured skin may become mottled and you may have pain (stinging, burning, swelling).  Blisters to follow.
  • Severe frostbite affects all layers of the skin, which turns white or bluish gray. You may not have an sensation of cold or discomfort.  You may have difficulty moving about as your joints and muscles become stiff.  After rewarming, the skin will blister and then turn black and hard with tissue death.

MEDICAL FIRST AID

  • Warm the affected area in warm but not hot water (98-105F), only when you are sure it will not refreeze. Gently warm the skin until it becomes red and warm.  Keep the water warm until the skin changes color, about half an hour.
  • Do not walk on frostbitten feet.
  • Keep warm with blankets and warm liquids (no alcohol).
  • Seek medical attention immediately.
  • Note cautions below.

SELF TREATMENT

The suggestions below are self-treatments that others have found helpful for this condition and are offered as information for your further research.

FOODS AND OTHER SUBSTANCES TO AVOID

HERBS AND SPICES

Herbs and spices may be used in conjunction with medical attention.  If you are on any medication now or are prescribed any for your frostbite, consult with a physician before using herbs.

  • Calendula
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Chamomile
  • Horsetail
  • Poplar buds

ESSENTIAL OILS

It may be risky to be messing around with frostbite but if your doctor thinks it’s ok, you can apply a little bit of lavender oil to affected parts.

OTHER SUBSTANCES AND SUPPLEMENTS

  • Aloe Vera on the injured area, for superficial frostbite. Apply very gently.
  • Antioxidants before exposure
  • Vitamin C

ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES

  • Homeopathy – https://www.homeopathycenter.org/homeopathy-today/winter-2013/put-freeze-frostbite

CAUTIONS

  • Do not remove boots or shoes from a frostbitten foot; wait for medical help.
  • Do not walk on frostbitten feet.
  • Never allow a frostbitten area to refreeze!
  • Stay out of the wind.
  • Don’t smoke (it reduces peripheral circulation)
  • Don’t drink alcohol (it causes heat loss)
  • Don’t get wet, avoiding further heat loss.
  • Stay away from metal.
  • If you get stranded in a car in freezing weather, it may be best to stay in the car.
  • Do not use heat from heating pads, fires or radiators.
  • Do not rub the affected skin.

PREVENTION

  • Get out of the weather when your extremities feel cold.
  • Dress appropriately for the weather.
  • Ask a friend to tell you when your skin may be changing color (you may not feel it due to numbness).

 

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