This unwanted injury is most often caused by freezing and affects nose, ears, cheek, chin, fingers, toes, or any part that’s exposed. When left untreated, Frostbite may result in permanent damage and amputation (Also see Amputated Finger).

Signs of Frostbite

  • White or grayish-yellow skin area
  • Numbness, burning, tingling, itching or cold sensation
  • Skin that’s unusually firm or waxy
  • Swelling and blistering, hardness on affected area, even blackened and dead skin

Milder conditions related to Frostbite

1. Frostnip — when an individual develops a tingling sensation that occurs after prolonged exposure to cold.

2. Chilblain — also known as Pernio, when a more localized tissue becomes inflated, swells and turns reddish purple. They may be itchy and often painful as a result of direct exposure to damp or cold conditions.

3.  Trench Foot — was described as a result of repeated exposure to dampness and cold aggravated by tight boots or footwear. This was observed common during the war period, when soldiers’ feet became swollen, painful and numb. They may also be covered with bleeding blisters.

First Aid and Treatment for Frostbite

If you have symptoms of frostbite or suspect you might, seek medical care immediately. But if it isn’t available, here are a few steps to take:

1. Get into a warm room as soon as possible
Warm up the affected area gradually in warm (not hot) water or cover with warm towels or blankets to promote blood circulation again. You can also warm the affected area using body heat. The armpit is one such place to warm frostbitten fingers for example. Remove all wet clothing immediately as well, not only to lessen Frostbite but also Hypothermia (see Hypothermia). Drink something warm like soup or tea.

2. Stay put
Unless absolutely necessary, do not use frostbitten feet or toes to walk. Walking can increase the damage and may cause severe pain which can even result to limb loss.

3. Don’t rub
It is not true that frostbitten areas will lessen when rubbed with snow or water as it will cause even more water. Frostbitten areas need to be dried quickly and warmed. Do not massage it at all as well. This can cause further damage or accidental amputation especially if the parts are already hard and blackened.

4. Warm with caution
Using a heating pad, lamp or the heat from a stove, fireplace, or radiator for warming frostbitten areas can be dangerous since frostbite makes an area numb and you could actually end up burning the affected area. Exercise caution.

5. A doctor is still the best option
Depending on the severity of the frostbite, if sensation doesn’t return to the affected areas, call for a physician or evacuate the victim to the nearest hospital. Further treatments may be necessary, and some remedies may not be found at home.

Note on Gangrene: It’s the term referring to the death of tissues in general and can be a serious and life-threatening condition. Although Gangrene can be caused by other factors (organisms such as bacteria, parasites, etc., weakened Immune System, diseases like Diabetes (see Diabetes Attack), Frostbite can also lead to Gangrene which may need surgery.

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