Tips To Avoid Frostbite in Icy Temperatures
When temperatures plummet, the risk of frostbite increases. We have tips to help you avoid frostbite injury, and guidelines for care of frostbitten extremities until you can get to medical assistance.
In Minnesota, we are used to winter cold, but this month temperatures have been particularly extreme, making frostbite a greater risk. The sensible precautions are obvious:
- Dress in warm, dry layers.
- Bundle up in hats and scarves with particular attention to protecting ears.
- Minimize skin exposed to the cold.
- Avoid spending any extended time outdoors.
When temperatures are below zero, frostbite can develop quickly. In the past few days, with the extreme below zero temperatures and dangerous windchills, experts warned us that frostbite can develop in as little as 5 to 10 minutes of exposure. Be alert to any of the following symptoms:
- Your extremities begin to feel numb or painful. Be particularly alert for a slightly painful, prickly or itching sensation.
- You develop white patches of skin that are numb, red, white, pale or grayish-yellow.
- Your skin feels hard or has a waxy look.
If you develop any of these symptoms, and don’t have access to immediate medical attention, follow the following guidelines:
- Don’t rub the affected area.
- Avoid walking if your feet are frostbitten, and don’t use frostbitten hands.
- Do not try to thaw the frostbitten area if there’s no help close by, or if there’s a risk that the skin may refreeze before you can access medical assistance.
- Never apply salves or creams to frostbitten skin.
If you can get to warm shelter, follow these steps to thaw frostbitten skin:
- Immerse the frostbitten extremity in warm water (use the temperature you’d run for a hot bath as a guide) for 20 to 45 minutes. Never use hot water.
- As your skin thaws, it will turn pink or bright red, and you may feel sensation returning.
- Remember—don’t use salves or creams.
- Protect the thawed area, and seek medical attention.
The Twin Cities offers the foremost frostbite expertise in the country, but with proper precautions, you won’t need their services. Stay warm, and stay safe!
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