Frostbite can be very dangerous when going outside in the cold winter months, but it can be easily avoided. Always wear proper clothing when staying outdoors for more than just a few minutes. If you think you may have frostbite, visit AFC Urgent Care Hillsdale for an exact diagnosis. Learn more about the illnesses we can treat here

Beginning signs of frostbite

Frostbite can happen in three different stages, but we will only focus on the first stage in this article. The early stage of frostbite is more commonly called frostnip. This stage does not permanently damage the skin and is most common on your face, fingers, toes, and ears. Signs of frostnip can include:

  • Cold skin that can feel prickly
  • Numbness
  • Red, white, or bluish-colored skin
  • Waxy looking skin

The frostnip stage is the most common and easiest to treat. When rewarming the skin, there may be slight pain in the affected area that can feel prickly. You do not need to see a doctor at this stage, but if the skin begins to feel warm without being rewarmed, you may need medical attention.

How you can treat it

Frostnip can be treated at home and does not need a diagnosis by a doctor. You can rewarm the skin by going inside, covering it with additional layers, or submerging the affected area in a warm bath for 15 to 30 minutes. If the rewarming process is painful, you can take ibuprofen or Tylenol to help with the pain. At this stage, you will not need any further treatment if the skin is returning to normal color and is no longer painful. Further phases of frostbite may require specific medications, removal of damaged tissue, or surgery.

How you can prevent frostbite

There are many options when trying to prevent frostbite from happening or getting worse. First, wear multiple layers when outside in freezing conditions. The colder it is outside, the more layers you will need. Do not only wear tight layers. These, in combination with a winter coat or other jackets, can help keep you warm. Since frostbite happens typically on the ears, fingers, and toes first, be sure to wear hats, gloves, and warm socks when outside.

Limiting the amount of time you spend outside can also help you avoid frostbite. Since symptoms worsen over time, going inside where it is warm can reduce your chance of complications. Do not keep wet clothing on when outside; be sure to take them off and put on dry options or go inside immediately. Moisture-wicking material can also keep you safe by keeping you warm. Lastly, avoid drinking alcohol when in freezing temperatures. Alcohol allows your body to lose heat faster, resulting in frostbite or hypothermia.