A frostbite is an injury caused by prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, this kind of injury freezes the skin and its underlying layers. Frostbite can lead to serious issues and may cause a limb to cease functioning and lead to gangrene which requires amputation.
Frostbite commonly occurs on extremities such as your fingers, toes, nose, ears but can also affect your cheeks, chin or lips and so on. Frostbite can also affect skin that is covered by gloves or thick clothing if the cold penetrates it.
Signs and symptoms of frostbite:
- Cold, prickly feeling on the skin
- Discoloration of the skin to either a reddish, bluish, whitish or yellowish color
- Joint or muscle stiffness
Because frostbite causes skin numbness, you may not notice it until it has been pointed out to you.
There are also numerous factors that can contribute to increasing the risk of frostbite:
- Under the influence of alcohol
- Exhaustion or dehydration
- Spending too much time outside in the cold climate, such as the homeless, those who are hiking, hunters, etc.
Different stages of frostbite:
- The first stage is frostnip. This is where the only the surface of the skin is frozen. This stage can be identified with signs of pain and itching then eventually numbness. Frostnip does not cause permanent damage to the skin because only the top layers are frozen.
- The second stage is superficial frostbite. In this stage, tissues may have ice crystals and you may start to feel warm. When you rewarm yourself, your skin may appear discolored and blisters may form after a few hours, typically a day later.
- The third stage is deep frostbite and can be life-threatening and lead to complications. At this stage, the freezing affects muscles up to nerves which can completely paralyze and disable limbs. If limbs or extremities are destroyed by this stage of frostbite, they can lead to gangrene and must be removed through amputation.
The most effective method to prevent yourself from being affected by frostbite is by wearing thick clothing if you are living in very cold places, once you feel the cold its best to move indoors and warm yourself. It’s also best to keep yourself dry and have your extremities covered, such as your ears, hands and feet.
Disclaimer / More Information
The material posted on this page on frostbite is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize the indications of this condition by taking a first aid and CPR class with one of our training providers.