While frostbite is a relatively uncommon side effect, it’s important to know early symptoms and prevention when spending time outside in the cold. Frostbite happens when skin and tissue freeze, and it can occur on someone’s face, fingers, or toes. AFC Urgent Care Saugus is here to help you prevent frostbite and other cold weather-related injuries. Read more to learn how to recognize and prevent frostbite.
Any skin that is exposed to the cold air is at the highest risk of frostbite, but depending on the temperature, covered skin is also at risk. It’s important to pay attention to any exposed skin and to help others around you if you think they may have frostbite. It is possible not to know you have frostbite until it is too late. The most common early symptoms of frostbite can include:
- Cold skin with a prickling feeling
- Red or blueish colored skin
- Muscle stiffness
You should seek medical attention immediately if any of these symptoms become severe or if you start experiencing symptoms of hypothermia. Always try and warm impacted skin and do not allow it to get any worse.
Three Stages of Frostbite
Frostbite comes in three stages, depending on severity:
- Frostnip: This is the mildest form of frostbite. It involves slight numbness and redness of the skin and will feel prickly and slight pain as the skin warms back up. This does not cause any permanent damage and does not require medical attention, as long as it does not get worse.
- Superficial frostbite: This is the second form of frostbite. It is slightly more severe than frostnip, as the skin begins to turn from red to blue or white. If you start to warm the skin at this stage, it will feel more tingly and painful than frostnip. After warming, a blister may appear on the skin 12 to 36 hours after. There is no significant damage to the skin, other than the healing blister.
- Deep frostbite: This is the most severe stage of frostbite. If the skin does not get warmed after superficial frostbite, it may experience extreme numbness, and thus no pain in the area. It is possible to lose the ability to move joints and muscles. Large blisters will show up after 24 hours, and the skin and tissue may turn black as it dies.
If you are unable to warm your skin once the frostnip stage begins, you should plan on seeking medical attention. Frostbite can have severe side effects, and it is better to be too careful rather than suffer from frostbite. It’s possible to experience permanent numbness and sensitivity to cold in the area affected.
The best way to avoid getting frostbite is by avoiding the cold. Wear as many layers when going outside in freezing temperatures, and do not let your clothing get wet. Waterproof jackets, pants, and socks will help keep your body dry. Wear hats and mittens that cover all exposed areas, and watch for the early signs of frostbite. Understanding basic first aid may help when experiencing frostnip.
For more information, call AFC Urgent Care Saugus at 781-233-1000.