BBRRR It is Still Cold Out There: Watch Out For Frostbite

With the exceptionally cold weather upon us, frostbite is a distinct threat to all of us. I was sledding with two of my granddaughters recently and after about an hour or so, the youngest, who is 8 years old, said that her hands and feet were beginning to burn. It was below freezing that day and the wind had picked up considerably. Her ears were covered and her face was bright red from the wind and blowing snow. Although I did not see any distinct whiteness to her nose, I was concerned about the possibility of frostbite. It was time to leave the hill.

Inside the car, we removed her wet boots and gloves and wrapped her hands and feet in my emergency blankets. After arriving at home, we inspected her hands and feet more carefully and placed them in a bucket of luke-warm water. Fortunately, she had no frostbite and the burning sensations left quickly.

Learn the symptoms of frostbite and be prepared. Watch for a burning or stinging sensation that primarily affects fingers, toes, ears, nose and face. Skin color may become white or waxy in color and if severe, the stinging will turn to a numb sensation.

Treatment is simple. Seek shelter and remove wet clothing. Cover exposed areas with dry gloves or blankets immediately. Do not rub the sore areas or apply snow. Immersing hands or feet in warm water at temperatures of 104 to 107 degrees Fahrenheit will help. Avoid direct heat from a stove which could burn areas that may be numb from severe frostbite.

 If at all possible, avoid the extreme cold. If you must be outside, dress warmly and cover fingers, ears and nose. Have a safe winter.

By Dr. James Powell

Chief Medical Officer at Avera Health Plans

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