Once an individual is exposed to extreme cold, there is the risk for frostbite to develop as well as those who fall accidentally in icy water. It is important to provide immediate first aid measures to prevent the condition from worsening.
Treatment for frostbite
If an individual develops frostbite, the treatment is fairly simple – quickly warm the affected areas using warm water (approximately 104 degrees Fahrenheit). Water that is cold will cause further damage to the fragile tissue. In case the water is too hot, it can also damage the skin. Dry heat produced by a heating pad is not advisable since it can scald the skin since the individual suffers from loss of sensation.
Blood-thinning medications can also be used. These medications can improve the flow of blood and minimize the risk for amputation especially in severe cases of frostbite. On the other hand, not all are suitable for this treatment measure.
What to expect?
Once the affected tissues have been warmed, the next risk is infection thus staying in a sterile environment is a must. The recovery usually takes some time. The previously frozen tissue will swell and turn red in color. In some cases, it can even blister and turns black in color. The dead tissues must be removed which is why amputation is inevitable in severe cases.
You have to keep the frozen tissue away from sources of heat until the affected area is rapidly thawed. Take note that thawing the tissue slowly will cause limb-altering damage as well as allowing the tissue to thaw and refreeze again. Additionally, clapping frozen hands together is not recommended since striking frozen tissue will cause further damage.
Complications of frostbite
Even if timely treatment has been provided, frostbite can cause long-term complications. Some with minor injuries can recover completely while others with severe tissue damage can experience constant pain or numbness in the affected areas. As for the skin, it might not recover its original color and skin cancer or arthritis can develop.
In case stranded in the wilderness, it is important to keep moving. If leaving the location is not a wise option, it is vital to put the arms and legs in motion to improve the circulation. If possible, do not fall asleep because it will make you vulnerable to frostbite.
How to prevent frostbite
The best way to prevent frostbite from occurring is to stay out of the cold. On the other hand, this is not possible for those who work under exposure to the elements as well as those who enjoy the outdoors.
If going outdoors is a must, there are certain considerations to bear in mind in order to prevent frostbite from occurring.
- Always bring high-carbohydrate snacks and meals since these can provide a boost on the core temperature.
- Wear properly insulated gloves, footwear and a hat. Start with a thin, breathable set of thermal underwear as the base. This must be followed by a layer of loosely fitting clothing that serves as insulation. The last outer layer must prevent rain, snow or wind from penetrating the clothing.
- Individuals with medical conditions such as circulatory diseases, thyroid conditions and diabetes must be closely monitored during outdoors.
- Avoid consumption of alcohol and prohibited drugs. Alcohol basically lowers down the internal body temperature.
- Avoid smoking since it increases the risk for frostbite. The nicotine triggers the body to respond to cold in a slow manner.