What Frostbite Is & How to Treat It

Knowing how the body reacts in extreme temperatures essential to keep yourself and others safe when if you ever find yourself in a dangerous situation. When it comes to extremely cold temperatures, one if the immediate dangers that people face is frostbite, which can cause even more damage to the body if not treated properly. Today, the first aid and safety experts here at OC Safety will be breaking down what frostbite is, they symptoms to look out for, and how to treat it effectively and efficiently.

Understanding Frostbite

Frostbite is a condition when the skin and the tissue underneath freezes, and often happens in temperatures that are below freezing. The most common areas of the body that become afflicted by frostbite are any skin that is exposed, such as the nose, cheeks, ears, and chin. Those with poor circulations to certain extremities like their toes and fingers also have a higher risk of getting frostbite in those areas. When the skin and the tissue freezes, the body reacts by constricting blood vessels in the frozen areas in an effort to keep your overall core temperature stable and prevent the onset of hypothermia.  The most common causes of frostbite are exposure the extremely cold weather, or direct skin contact with ice or other materials that are at a temperature below freezing.

What Are The Symptoms Of Frostbite?

While many people may imagine a body part turning black as the obvious sign of frostbite, it is actually only the last and most severe stage of frostbite. In total, there are about 4 different degrees of frostbite, each with different symptoms based on the extent that the tissue has frozen. The degrees and their symptoms are as follows:

1st Degree Frostbite - Often referred to as “frostnip”, the skin begins to turn pale or red in color. The skin is also cold to the touch, giving off very little warmth as the upper layers of the tissue have begun to freeze. Frostnip often gives a sensation of itching, tingling, or feeling slightly numb.

2nd Degree Frostbite - the skin begins to turn a pale yellow color that resembles wax, and some ice crystal may be apparent on the outside layers of skin. The affected area will often become swollen and create a painful burning sensation. 

3rd/4th Degree Frostbite - at later stages, every layer of the skin down to the nerves and blood vessels have been frozen over. The most common symptoms and signs of this stage are complete numbness of the area, lack of ability to move, black coloration, and the tissue is hard to the touch.  It is difficult to know the severity of the damage at this stage, and is often only discernible after some time.

How To Treat Frostbite

There are two main methods of treating frostbite which involve thawing the frozen skin, but before we go over those, we need to talk about timing and preparation for treatment. If you don’t have access to a warmer environment for long while, it is recommended that you don’t attempt to treat the frostbite. This is because if the tissue is thawed and then refrozen, it can actually cause more harm to the body. If this is the case, it is recommended that you simply wrap the affected area and limit movement as much as possible, since the ice crystals under the skin can also cause damage when moving. Now onto the types of frostbite treatment.

Passive Rewarming - This method uses the person’s own body heat, or a heated environment, to thaw the frozen tissues and bring it back to a stable temperature.

Active Rewarming -  Active rewarming entails the application of heat directly onto the affected tissue, such as dipping a frostbitten hand into extremely hot water. This method is commonly used in conjunction with passive rewarming.

Both of these methods carry some risk, since the rapid return of blood flow to the frostbitten area can cause a sharp drop in the body’s core temperature and result in an irregular heartbeat. That is why treatment for frostbite is most often performed in a hospital with the assistance of a medical professional.

Contact OC Safety For More Helpful Information!

If you have any questions about how to deal with frostbite or identify early signs, contact the first aid and safety experts here at OC Safety. We offer first aid certification, HIPAA training, and CPR classes in Orange County, so you can be prepared with the vital skills to help you and your loved ones in times of need. Just contact us for more information on our classes, or book your courses by checking our calendar, which is updated regularly.

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Friday, 20 September 2019

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