Sunday, January 27, 2019

Frostbite Signs, Symptoms, and Prevention

January and February are some of the coldest months throughout the North Country, and with the extremely cold temperatures and wind-chill factor, frostbite is no joke.

Today we’re going to talk about what frostbite is, who’s at risk, recognizing the signs and symptoms, how to prevent it, as well as what to do in case you do have frostbite.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016), frostbite is a serious condition that’s caused by exposure to extremely cold temperatures, freezing tissue in the body which can lead to permanent damage or amputation. The areas on the body most affected by frostbite are the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. People who have poor blood circulation, or are not properly dressed for the cold temperatures are most at risk for frostbite.

How do we recognize frostbite? The first signs are redness of the skin or pain in the affected area. If not dealt with, frostbite can lead to numbness, a white or grayish-yellow skin area, or a skin surface that feels unusually firm or waxy. Many times, because the body tissue is numb, other people will point out the frostbite signs and symptoms.

So what should you do if you are frostbitten? Get inside to a warm room as soon as possible. If toes or feet are affected, try to stay off of them, walking too much on frostbitten areas can cause more damage. You can also soak/run your hands under WARM water. Hot water can cause more damage to the frostbitten areas. If water is not available, then you can place your hands in warm areas on the body such as the armpits. Do NOT place hands too close to a fire or on a radiator, as that can burn the frostbitten areas.

So how can we prevent frostbite? Ideally, avoid being outdoors in extremely cold weather, but this is not always an option. If you must go out, make sure to bundle up and cover the most affected areas (nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes) with warm and dry clothing. By being able to recognize the signs and symptoms of frostbite, you may be saving yourself or people you know from the pain, discomfort, and severity of frostbite.

Stay warm, bundled up, and smart out there!

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Dan Sweet is a full time employee of Cornell Cooperative Extension as a Nutrition Educator. Dan began working for Cornell Cooperative Extension as an intern for Camp Akalaka in 2013, doing nutrition education and leading group activities. Growing up in Saranac Lake, New York, Dan has a passion for the outdoors. In his spare time, you can find him hiking, skiing, or playing various sports.


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