Frostbite is a medical condition that occurs when extremely cold conditions cause body tissues, including skin, to be damaged. It usually effects the body parts that are a long way from the heart, such as toes and fingers, This can happen in temperatures below 0 °C (32 °F) and/or high winds because the body decreases blood flow to the extremities as a way of keeping the body core temperature stable. There are four degrees of frostbite. The first of these is commonly called frostnip and does not usually cause permanent problems. The third and fourth degrees occur when the muscles, tendons, nerves and blood vessels freeze. This is much more serious and can result in serious complications and even amputation. Let’s find out how frostbite is treated.
What is the treatment for frostbite?
The first treatment for frostbite is to keep the affected area warm without directly touching the skin on a hot object. However, this should only be done if the person is located in a stable and warm place because if the area refreezes it will cause further damage. The affected areas should also be wrapped to prevent movement, which can cause ice crystals to do more damage. This is also the reason that frostbitten areas should not be massaged, rubbed or shaken.
Warming the area can occur through passive warming, which involves using body heat or a warm room to warm the whole body, or active rewarming, which involves direct heating of the person. Active rewarming is usually performed in a hospital because it requires special equipment and monitoring.
Surgery to remove the dead tissue or amputate the affected area is delayed as long as possible to give the area a chance to recover naturally. Exceptions to this is if the area becomes infected or if the frostbite leads to a dangerous condition known as gas gangrene.
Did you know?
Even with successful treatment frostbite can have some long term effects in many cases. These include; permanent reduction in feeling, tingling/burning sensation, bone degradation/arthritis and increased rate of cancer in the area.